A Will Contest is Proceeding is a matter where an “Interested Party” – a person with a legal right to do so – challenges the validity of a Will.
Will Contest Proceedings can take on many forms, and can be motivated by a great many factors.
Indeed, the reasons why an Interested Party might contest the validity of a Will are far too many to count.
However, the legal grounds upon which the validity of a Will may be contested are surprisingly narrow, and not commonly known.
Reasons a Will may be contested
In New York, there are four general grounds upon which an Interested Party can challenge the validity of a Will during the Probate process:
Lack of testamentary capacity:
A Will may be challenged on the basis that the person who made the Will lacked testamentary capacity.
Typically, an allegation is made that the person who created the Will was not of sound mind, did not understand the impact of the Will, and/or did not understanding the nature or extent of their estate or who their beneficiaries were when executing the Will.
The allegation that someone lacked testamentary capacity can also relate to the person who made the Will not being able to understand, read, or write in the English Language, and/or a limited number of other grounds.
Undue Influence, Fraud, and/or Duress:
A Will may be challenged if it was the product of Undue Influence, Fraud, and/or Duress.
Though each of these grounds are distinct, they are typically grouped together as they are based on the allegation that the Will – or a provision in the Will usually related to a beneficiary, or a beneficiary’s interest – was secured by some improper means.
Proving, or disproving, Undue Influence, Fraud, and/or Duress is a very fact specific project, and one which commonly involves relying upon Medical Records, Financial Records, Witness Testimony, and even inferences of wrongdoing that can be concluded from the surrounding circumstances.
Lack of Due Execution:
A Will may be successfully challenged if it was not created in conformity with the strict, formal requirements set forth by the law.
For example, the failure to sign the Will in the proper place, and/or a failure to have the Will witnessed by two independent individuals, can render a Will invalid.
Each jurisdiction has specific requirements that must be met for a Will to be valid.
Accordingly, failure to abide by the rules of the jurisdiction in which the Will was signed and/or offered for Probate can often lead to it being declared invalid.
It is for this reason that it is so important to have a Will prepared by, and signed before, an attorney so as to best ensure that the Will was “Duly Executed.”
Ultimately, there is no way to ensure that a Will won’t be challenged. However, there are many ways to help ensure that the challenge of a Will won’t be successful. Conversely, when contesting or defending the validity of a Will, there are many factors that come into play – all of which are shaped by the unique facts of the case itself.
If you have questions about contesting, or defending, the validity of a Will, call Bashian P.C.