Defending a Contested Will in New York City

Defending a contested will in New York is easier than contesting it. That’s due to the presumption that a will is valid. The burden is on the challenger to prove the will’s invalidity. But the proponent of the will still has to prove that the will was executed correctly and the testator had the mental capacity to execute a will. It would then be up to the contestant to prove otherwise. You will likely need an attorney to successfully defend the will.

Why The Defense Has the Advantage

In will contests, the defense often has an easier case than the challengers. Here’s why:

  • The benefit of presumption

    The law assumes a properly executed will is valid. A will with an attestation clause and whose execution is supervised by an attorney enjoys a strong presumption of validity.

  • The burden of proof

    The challenger must present compelling evidence to overcome the presumption of the will’s validity.

  • The testator not present

    New York’s Dead Man’s Statute prohibits interested parties from testifying about transactions or communications with the deceased testator.

  • The contest grounds

    Challengers must focus their objections on certain legal grounds like lack of capacity, undue influence, improper execution, fraud, or forgery. Each basis has specific elements that must be proven. Certain grounds face longer odds than others. Challenges based on improper execution, lack of testamentary capacity, or undue influence have slightly higher success rates if adequate evidence is produced. Meanwhile, contests based on forgery or fraud are much rarer and more difficult to prove.

Building a Defense Strategy

The key elements of an effective defense include:

  • Hiring an estate litigation attorney

    Defending a will requires working closely with an experienced will contest attorney who has successfully contested and defended wills over many years. We know the complexities and strategies involved with each potential ground for the contest and understand the strengths and weaknesses of legal arguments from both attack and defense perspectives.

  • Gathering evidence

    Thoroughly gather documents and accounts demonstrating the testator’s state of mind and intentions when writing the will. This includes assembling medical records, statements from impartial parties, financial histories, communications, and any proof of the testator’s strong mental capacity and lack of coercion.

  • Taking depositions

    Strategically question the will’s witnesses during depositions to provide facts that would support the will’s proper execution and validity in accordance with state laws.

  • Understanding the burdens of proof

    Emphasize how the challenger’s arguments fail to overcome the presumption of validity.

  • Painting an accurate picture

    Gathered evidence and testimony should show an accurate portrait of the testator’s strong mental state, earnest intentions, and legitimate relationships at the time he signed the will. The goal is to convincingly convey that the will genuinely represents the testator’s wishes.

Since defending a will contest is complicated, we recommend that you seek the assistance of a New York will contest attorney to represent you in the matter. Should you need legal representation, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We are located in Midtown Manhattan in New York City. You can call us at 212-233-1233 or send us an email at [email protected].

Attorney Albert Goodwin

Law Offices of
Albert Goodwin, PLLC
31 W 34 Str, Suite 7058
New York, NY 10001

Tel. 212-233-1233

[email protected]

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