Contesting a New York Will

Reasons for Contesting a Will in New York

In order to object to probate of a New York Will, you need to have a valid reason. Merely being unsatisfied with your portion is not an accepted ground for contest. In other words, the court won’t hear your case if your only ground for challenging the Will is because you believe you should have received more.

Valid reasons for contesting a New York Will which are recognized by the court include objections to matters which would otherwise prove the Will. For example, if the testator lacked testamentary capacity or was of unsound mind at the time the Will was made, if there was undue influence or fraud or that the Will was not signed or witnessed properly.

Procedure when Contesting a Will in New York

You need to file objections to probate of the alleged Will with the appropriate probate or surrogate court.

Within 30 days, the proponent of the Will (usually the executor) must submit a citation to be issued by the court and served on each relevant person.

The objections are determined at a trial, hearing or conference on the return date or on a date to be fixed by the court (see § 1411 of the New York Consolidated Statute Estates, Powers and Trusts).

Time Limit for Contesting a Will in New York

The objections need to be filed on or before the return day of the process. A later date may be directed by the court.

However, if witnesses are required to be produced and examined, then the objection must be filed within 10 days after completion of the examinations. The parties or the court may change this timeframe. § 1410

Who can challenge a New York Will?

The objections may be filed by any person whose interest in the testator’s property or estate would be adversely affected if the Will was admitted to probate. This would include the spouse, children, beneficiaries and heirs at law. § 1410

Contest Clauses in New York Wills

Testators are entitled to add a condition in their New York Will designed to prevent beneficiaries from inheriting under the Will if they contest it. Most states render this condition inoperable if there is probable cause for the challenge to the Will.

In New York, this condition is operative regardless of whether there is probable cause for the objection. However, some limited exceptions apply; for example where the Will is a forgery.

Contesting a Will in New York can be a complex form of litigation (lawsuit). You should speak to a qualified probate attorney at the earliest possible convenience to discuss your case and to see if it’s worth proceeding and, mainly, to avoid having your action barred by the time limitations. 

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