What is a pecuniary interest? Generally speaking, is an interest relating to money.
In New York, when a loved one dies and leaves a will that needs to be admitted to probate, only those persons who have pecuniary interest have standing to contest a will. Standing is the legal capacity to bring an action to court. The court will not an entertain a challenge from a person who does not have standing to contest a will.
The following people can contest a will because they have a pecuniary interest or an interest relating to money:
- Distributees who would receive less under the will than they would receive if there were no will (intestate heirs); and
- Beneficiaries (even if they are not intestate heirs) who would receive less under the will than they would under a previous will.
For example, D dies, survived by his spouse, A, and their two children, B and C. His parents, X and Y, and sibling, Z, are still alive. In D’s one and only last will and testament, he left all his assets to his spouse and children, A, B, and C. His parents and sibling, X, Y, and Z seek to contest the will in court. Will the court entertain the suit of X, Y, and Z? No, because X, Y, and Z do not have pecuniary or financial interest in the will. Because D is survived by his spouse and two children, even if D dies without a will, X, Y, and Z will not inherit from D under New York’s intestate laws.
If, however, D executed a previous will where he left something for his parents, X and Y, as beneficiaries, the new will where he left everything to his spouse and children, A, B, and C, can be contested by X and Y, but not by his sibling Z.
If you feel that you have been omitted unfairly from a will, consult an experienced estates lawyer to see whether you have standing or sufficient pecuniary interest to contest a will. This will save you from thousands of dollars in litigation, only to learn later that the court has dismissed your case due to lack of legal standing.
If you have an issue with what is a pecuniary interesest, you can get in touch with us, the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin. We can be reached at 212-233-1233 or 718-509-9774.