The filing of a Will Contest with the Surrogate’s Court brings to mind melodramatic stories of family intrigue and deception that are played out in movies, novels and other media outlets. In reality, Contests regarding a Will in New York are rather common occurrences that are subject to strict statutory and procedural guidelines.
When a person dies and leaves a Will, the document must be offered for probate. This means that the validity of the Will is not achieved until the Surrogate admits the Will to probate. A probate proceeding involves the notification of the decedent’s next of kin and other interested parties who are the ones who have the right to challenge a Will. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published numerous articles about Wills and probate. The basic grounds upon which a Will is challenged are lack of due execution, lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence and fraud. Sometimes an allegation may be made that a Will has a forged signature.
The Objectants to a Will, as well as the proponents, engage in a lengthy period of discovery that is meant to allow the parties to ferret out facts to support their positions. This discovery process includes deposition testimony of various witnesses including the attesting witnesses to the Will and the attorney who drafted the Will. Also, various documents can be obtained and reviewed including the decedent’s medical and financial records.