Will Contest Lawyers and Probate Dispute Attorneys

Helping Clients Seeking to Obtain or Protect their Inheritance – Representation in Ithaca, Syracuse, Binghampton, Elmira, and Throughout the Finger Lakes Region

As probate litigation attorneys, we help clients obtain or protect their rightful inheritance in will disputes and probate contests.  This includes:

  • Challenging the validity of wills and trusts in situations where undue influence, competence, or other issues may have been present in the execution of a will,
  • Challenging the appointment of a Personal Representative who may be mismanaging estate administration, and
  • Protecting Personal Representatives from will and estate administration challenges and probate contests.

If you would like to contest a will or the appointment of a personal representative who may be mismanaging an estate, or if you are accused of mismanaging an estate while you are serving as a personal representative, please call our office to learn how we can use our over seventy years of legal experience to help you.

Will Contest Lawyer and Probate Dispute Attorney IthacaWho Can Challenge a Will in New York?

In New York, if you have a financial interest in the will, you have legal standing to contest it.  Thus, you can file an objection with the New York Surrogate’s Court to prevent the will from being probated.

What Can I Do if My Sibling Contests My Parents’ Will and I am the Personal Representative?

The passing of a parent is a difficult time, and the loss can deepen rifts or cause issues between siblings.  If your sibling decides to contest your parent’s will, or your appointment as a personal representative, it’s important to understand what actions you can take.

It is also important to keep in mind that a will is a legal document that is not easily invalidated.  Just because your sibling decides to contest the will does not mean that it will be overturned. Similarly, courts are typically reluctant to remove a personal representative (or executor) named in a will without just cause, as courts usually will defer to a decedent’s wishes.

Contesting a Will – How Will Contests are Often Resolved

Contesting a will can be a time-consuming and expensive process, often drastically depleting the estate available to beneficiaries.  This reality often pushes parties into using an alternative dispute resolution procedures, such as mediation or even arbitration, in an attempt to resolve a will contest without completely draining assets.

In our representation, we work aggressively to represent the interests of our clients, and develop strategies for achieving desired outcomes as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.  If an amicable resolution cannot be reached, we will work tirelessly in seeking a full win for our clients at trial.  At the outset, as New York probate administration dispute and will contest attorneys, we can explain the strengths of your case and the options available so that you can make an informed decision regarding the direction of representation.

What are the Grounds for Contesting a Will in New York?

Any person who is affected by a will may challenge the will as part of the probate process.  The following are grounds for challenging a will in New York:

  • Undue Influence. Undue influence can consist of one person taking advantage of a testator’s medical condition or the fact that they are not of sound mind to induce them into including such person in the will. As an example, a nursing home staff member may abuse a resident or withhold proper care unless the resident revises their will to include provisions for the caretaker.
  • Fraud. Fraud occurs when a testator is induced by false claims or circumstances into making or executing a will. To prove fraud, the challenger must show by clear and convincing evidence that a false statement was made to the decedent that induced the decedent into making the will, and that the property would have been disposed of differently had the false statement not been made.  For instance, if a person claims to be the biological child of a dying person based upon a fraudulent DNA report, and the dying person revises their will to give a share of the estate the to the purported child, that child would not be entitled to any portion of the estate because of the fraud.
  • Lack of Legal Capacity. For a testator to have the legal capacity to execute a will, the testator must understand:
    • The property that he or she owns;
    • What are the natural objects of his bounty (i.e., the closest surviving members of one’s family); and
    • That a will is being executed and its implications (i.e, that they are providing for the final distribution of assets upon death).
  • Revocation. Under New York State Law, a will is considered revoked if a testator:
      • Executes a subsequent will;
      • Clearly indicates, in writing, an intention to revoke the will; or
      • Destroys a will by ripping, burning, or tearing up the will, or otherwise causes the will to be destroyed.[1]
    • Validity of the will.  A will may be invalid for a variety of reasons, such as:
      • The testator’s signature does not appear at the end of the will.
      • Two witnesses did not witness the signing of the will by the testator.
      • The witnesses were unaware that they were signing a will.
      • The testator was unaware that he or she was signing the will.[2]

    What Should I Do if I Want to Contest a Will?

    We can help you determine if there are legal grounds for a will contest before you expend significant time and resources.  If you decide to proceed, we can help you file a claim and build a strong case to invalidate the will or the controversial provisions.

    The New York Surrogate’s Court has the jurisdiction to hear and decide all probate matters.[3]  We can initiate a will contest by filing a lawsuit against the estate with New York Surrogate’s Court.  Upon filing a case, the executor or personal representative of the estate will retain the services of a New York estate lawyer to fight the claim.

    What Types of Will Contest Cases Does Friedlander & Mosher Handle?

    We are available to represent clients in will contests involving a variety of different issues, including (but not limited to) situations in which:

    • There is a question regarding the assets or property to which they are entitled to inherit.
    • They are wrongfully or fraudulently cut out of a will.
    • Adequate provisions are not made for the client under the will.
    • They are rightfully entitled to an inheritance interest, but it is in jeopardy because another person is wrongfully claiming a right to the assets belonging to the client.

    Estate litigation can be a lengthy process, presenting unique challenges if an asset in question is required for ongoing care and maintenance, such as a house that must be secured or insurance that must be maintained.  In will contests involving these types of necessities, it can be vitally important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible.

    Let Us Help You Protect Your Inheritance!

    Please call our office to schedule a consultation to learn how we help you secure or retain your inheritance.

    Related Pages

    [1] EPTL § 3-21.

    [2] EPTL §3-2.1.

    [3] Surrogate’s Court, New York County, New York State Unified Court System, ww2.nycourts.gov/courts/1jd/surrogates/index.shtml.

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