When a Parent Leaves Everything to One Child in New York City

If a New York parent leaves everything to one child, the disinherited children may have legal options depending on the circumstances.

If you are a child who is left out, it is important to get an expert assessment on whether litigation over the inheritance distribution is likely to succeed or worthwhile. If you are a child who is benefitting, it is important to hire an attorney to help you carry out the wishes in the documents.

If you are dealing with a situation where a parent left everything to one child, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you, to either defend your parent’s decision or contest a document that you feel is invalid. You can call us at 212-233-1233 or send us an email at [email protected] to discuss your situation.

New York Law Allows a Person to Disinherit Their Children

In New York, there is no automatic inheritance right for a child to receive part of a parent’s estate. New York law allows individuals full control to decide how their assets and property will be distributed after death.

A parent can disinherit some or all children in their will if they wish. The law protects their ability to distribute their property according to their own preferences without requiring equal divisions among children.

This deference to personal property rights means children do not have an absolute claim over inheritance from parents under New York law. If certain heirs are omitted from a valid will, they receive nothing unless they can successfully contest the will. However, if a surviving spouse is disinherited, they may be able to claim a portion of the estate.

While this unilateral freedom in directing unequal inheritance can cause deep hurt, legally the deceased’s will stands as their last testament for asset distribution.

Will Contest

A child who was intentionally omitted from the will has only one option: contesting the will. This requires filing litigation to convince a probate judge that serious deficiencies existed in the will-making process which justify setting aside the will.

Grounds for a Will Contest

To contest a will, it’s not enough to disagree with it. An omitted child would have to establish one of the following grounds:

  1. Technical Failure. There were technical errors in how the will was made.
  2. Pressure and Manipulation. Someone pressured and manipulated the person into making the will.
  3. Diminished Mental Capacity. The person suffered from cognitive decline that interfered with his ability to understand the will.
  4. Forgery. A fake will.
  5. Fraud. The person made the will because someone has been lying to him.

To learn more about contesting a will, read our guide to will contests.

Deciding Whether to Contest a Will

Before initiating a will contest, it may help to weigh the following factors:

  1. Strength of Evidence: How strong and convincing is your evidence?
  2. Asset Value: What’s the estimated worth of the stolen inheritance?
  3. Time and Cost: Evaluate the time you’ll spend and the legal fees and expenses you’ll incur.

It can be challenging to meet the legal and evidentiary burdens to override a will. Perceived unfairness alone does not suffice. Intentionally disinherited children may still feel contesting is worth attempting, but expectations need to be realistic.

Costs of a Will Contest

To know more about the costs of a will contest, you can click here. The cost of your will contest can range between four to five figures and will depend on the stage in which your claim is concluded: out of court, during the initial probe, discovery, or after trial.

Settlement of a Will Contest

Will contests almost always end up in settlement talks between both sides seeking to avoid further draining the estate through litigation expenses. There is ample opportunity during this settlement process for reconciliation between disinherited children and favored siblings over inheritance shares. In fact, most inheritance disputes initiated by a will contest are resolved by mutual agreement rather than court-ordered judgments.

Often the optimal path lies in negotiations and settlement agreements that improve inheritance without complete destruction of the deceased’s outlined wishes. With wisdom and patience, families can potentially move towards reconciliation rather than further fragmentation through disputes over the estate after a parent is gone.

An Accidentally Omitted After-Born Child

If you were accidentally omitted as an after-born child, you may be able to receive something depending on the provisions your parents made on their children. In New York, the rules are provided in EPTL § 5-3.2:

  • If your parent has one or more children and no provision was made for any of the children in the will, the after-born child does not receive anything.
  • If your parent left something for one or more children in the will, the after-born child receives a share limited or equal to what the other children received.
  • If your parent did not have any other children except for the after-born child, the after-born child receives a portion of the parent’s estate as if the parent died intestate.

If you’d like to take action when your parent left everything to one child, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We are located in Midtown, Manhattan. We cover Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Staten Island, Nassau County, Suffolk County and Westchester County. 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
[email protected]