Many Executors and Trustees feel like they have a target on their backs. People who have not been there for the decedent come out of the woodwork and hold up the estate for ransom. We can defend you if one of the following is happening:
- Relatives of the decedent are trying to overturn the will
- Beneficiaries are claiming that you’ve done something wrong as the executor
- A person with an interest in the estate is trying to cancel a gift the decedent gave to you
- An heir is trying to cancel a beneficiary designation
- A beneficiary is challenging your qualifications as executor
- A spouse of the decedent is presenting inflated spousal elective share claims
- Beneficiary or business partner is claiming a share of the business
Protect estates and trusts from people who are trying to get what they are not entitled to.
We are here to protect you, the Executor, against unfair allegations. We can help you get the estate back to being distributed to its rightful beneficiaries. This is what we do.
Defend Estates Against Will Challenges
A resident of New York has the absolute right to cut people out of their will. Relatives and friends will come out of the woodwork and make up any claims they can think of to challenge the Will. They will claim that there is something wrong with the will – that the will-maker was too sick and old to make a will, or that the executor tricked the will-maker into making the will. They will try to find technical grounds for invalidating the will. They will claim that the signature was forged or that the will-maker was slipped a will disguised as a different document.
Their real reason for challenging the will is the fact that they are not getting what they want, and they will make any claims in hopes of getting a settlement out of the estate.
New York estate attorneys will often take those Will Challenge and estate cases on a contingency basis, meaning that they get a share (typically one-third) of whatever the claimant collects. Many executors get threatened by the challenge and offer a large settlement just to make the claimants go away. We have a track record of fighting those claims and taking them to trial if need be. Seeing that they encounter serious opposition, many claimants lose their initial enthusiasm and give up or settle for a much more reasonable amount.
We like to bring objectants’ lawyers to the point where they are not even entitled to a trial, leaving them no choice but to realize the futility of their undertaking and withdraw their objections to the will. If we make it clear that the case is frivolous, a New York estate attorney would have no choice but to withdraw the claim against your estate. If objections are not withdrawn, we like to file a Motion to Dismiss, which has the effect of throwing out objections without trial due to not having enough evidence and legal basis to proceed to trial.
We have seen great success in clearing estates of allegations and proceeding to close the estate and distribute assets to their rightful beneficiaries with small nuisance settlements or no settlements at all. More…
Defend Against Allegations of Executor Wrongdoing
Time and time again, we have seen beneficiaries of estates accuse Executors of wrongdoing with no basis what so ever. Executors are unjustly accused of taking funds or property of the estate and are accused of overspending on estate expenses. In our experience, those allegations rarely have a basis. What beneficiaries fell is inappropriate is often allowed under New York estate laws. Sometimes, beneficiaries see executors using their own funds and mistake that for executors using estate funds. At other times, however, executors are not familiar with handling estates and may create a situation that makes them look bad. In such situations, we work with the executors to remedy the situation and put any misunderstandings behind them. More…
Defend Pre-Death Gifts
People are within their right to make gifts during their lifetime. Those gifts are often challenged after the person who made the gift dies. Claimants make arguments that the person “did not really intend to make the gift” and that they were taken advantage of. Yet, the documents are there, stating that the person did make the gift. The burden is on the claimants to try to prove that something is wrong with the gift. We provide a vigorous defense to disprove the claimants’ arguments, and if need be, demonstrating that the giver made the gift of their own free will and that whatever issues the claimant has with the gift are not enough to change the fact that the gift was made. Although a few of the stronger cases can settle, we have the capacity to successfully defend most challenges to pre-death transfers of assets. More…
Defend Beneficiary Designations
People are entitled to name whomever they want as beneficiaries of their assets. Those assets then pass directly to the beneficiaries, without going through the Surrogate’s Court. Those beneficiary designations are often challenged by the people who were not named as a beneficiary or who have received a lesser share than they expected. They will claim that the person who named beneficiaries to their assets was tricked into signing the form or they did not know what they were signing. It is up to the people making those claims to prove their case. We do our absolute best dispute those claims, and to show the Court that the person who died made the beneficiary designation on their own free will, with full understanding, and without any technical defects. More…
Defend Executor Qualifications
Beneficiaries of estates sometimes have a personal problem with the Executor. Instead of listening to the will of the person whose estate it is, they challenge the qualifications of the Executors, usually by claiming that the Executor cannot be trusted with the property of the estate. We often solve this problem by posting a bond, which is like insurance on the executor’s potential misconduct. A bond sometimes works to put the beneficiaries at ease. If a bond cannot be posted or if the beneficiaries want the Executor out no matter what, it is up to the beneficiaries to prove why the executor is not qualified. We do our absolute best to show that the beneficiaries’ claim to have the Executor disqualified are without basis. More…
Defend Against Inflated Spousal Elective Share Claims
A disinherited spouse is entitled to a claim of up to one-third of the decedent’s estate. A spouse is also entitled to a third of any property the decedent owned up to a year prior to their death, recapturing the property even if the decedent transferred the property to someone else before they died. However, spouses often have an inflated estimate of what they should receive as a result of their elective share claim. They do not pay attention to the fact that estate expenses and the decedent’s debts reduce the amount of the elective share. A spouse can attempt to overvalue the entire estate in the hopes of receiving a higher elective share. Sometimes, a spouse attempts to include the executor’s own property in the elective share valuation. If a spouse disagrees with the executor over the amount of the elective share, it is up to the spouse to prove to the court how the executor is wrong. We vigorously defend executors against a spouse’s attempt to overvalue an elective share. More…
Defend the Executor’s Share in a Business
Executors are often in business together with the decedent, having worked in the same company sometimes for decades, has significantly contributed to the company, having a share in the company or receiving compensation from the business. Non-executors who are not involved in the business tend to challenge the executor’s share, ignoring the years of hard work that the executor put into the business. The beneficiaries just want the payout. We work hard to show the court that the Executor is entitled to the share of the business and to the income and control of the business. More…
Defensive Estate Planning
The best estate defense begins at the estate planning stage. The best way to avoid an apparent will challenge is to have a New York attorney meet with you personally a few times, thoroughly plan your estate, have an email and document trail establishing that you understand every part of the estate plan and are acting under your own free will, and video-recording the Will Execution Ceremony. We will establish your capacity on the video, to erase any doubts. At the end of the process, your true heirs will have enough evidence to easily destroy any future Will challenge – they will have the paper and email trail, the video where you are competent and in control, and a New York estate attorney who will testify that you contacted them to make a will, made the will of your own accord and all the procedures were followed. More…
Defend Guardianship Attempts
Some heirs know that they will be cut out of the will, and will try to be proactive by bringing a guardianship proceeding, with the hope of establishing the will maker’s incapacity or dependence on the future Executor of the Will. In other words, they bring the guardianship as a de facto lifetime Will contest. We can defend the will maker’s capacity and preserve their independence by showing that they do have the capacity to make decisions. At the least, even if it turns out that a guardianship is needed for some of the aspects of the decedent’s life, we will do our best to show that although the decedent needs some help with some aspects of their life, they still have enough capacity to be able to make a will and to otherwise plan their estate. More…
Defend Claims Against the Estate
After a person dies, all kinds of people and entities make claims against their estate. The most common claimants are creditors, alleged business partners, life partners, ex-spouses, the IRS, and Medicaid. If often turns out that the alleged claimants cannot provide any sort of proof such as documents or testimony. Even if they do have a claim, it is often overstated. We make fight hard to make sure that if a claim is even paid, the claimants only get a reasonable settlement amount.
Closing New York City Estates
Once an estate challenge is successfully resolved, the next step is to close out and settle the estate. We help executors close and settle New York estates in in a clean and efficient way. Our knowledge of the court system allows us to close and settle matters in New York Surrogate’s Court without unneeded expenses and delays. This is what Executors usually ask us about probate:
- How Does NYC Probate Work?
- What is the Timeline for NYC Probate?
- What if there is Property in More Than One State?
- What Do I Need to Do When Someone Dies?
- More Detailed FAQ
People will do anything to hold up an estate. They bring challenges against the Will, accuse executors of wrongdoing, allege that the executor is not qualified to handle the estate, try to invalidate pre-death property transfers or beneficiary designations, make claims against the estate, make inflated spousal share elections, try to take away the executor’s share of a business, allege that property is missing from the estate, and do anything else they can to make the executor’s job harder than it already is.
We know New York courts, and our goal is to protect Executors from claims against the estate. In proceedings such as will contests, contested accountings and removal proceedings, I am a New York estate attorney who stands by Executors and helps them achieve success.
Albert Goodwin is an experienced New York estate attorney who has successfully represented Executors all over New York City, including New York County (Manhattan), Kings County (Brooklyn), Bronx County, Queens County, Richmond County (Staten Island), Nassau County in Long Island, and Westchester County (the White Plains court).
If you need competent representation for your New York City estate, contact the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin. Give me a call at (212) 233-1233.
I look forward to protecting your estate from claims and securing your estate for generations to come.