New York Will Contests Result from Lack of Estate Planning

The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has talked about the need for individuals to engage in proper estate planning. Planning documents include a Last Will, Living Will, Health Care Proxy, Power of Attorney and Living Trust. Persons who only have modest estates still should implement papers so that their intended beneficiaries do not face the uncertainties that arise when planning documents are not professionally prepared or are not prepared at all.

It is sometimes astonishing that individuals who have amassed a tremendous amount of wealth during their lifetime by successfully operating a business can be so neglectful when it comes to estate planning.  The result of such inattention often is in the form of a Will Contest.

Take for example the recent drama that is unfolding in the Staten Island Surrogate’s Court. The case involves the estate of Roman Blum who became rich as a real estate developer. Mr. Blum’s wife predeceased him and the couple had no children. Mr. Blum had amassed an estate of $40 million.  As reported by Mira Wass of on September 24, 2014, in a post entitled, “Forensic expert determines signature ‘non-genuine’ on one of the wills claiming Staten Island millionaire’s fortune” a forensic expert recently testified that Mr. Blum’s signature that appears on one of the two Wills filed with the Court is a forgery. The subject Will had been filed by an attorney who was allegedly disbarred in at least one state.

Certainly, Mr. Blum was able to afford to pay professionals who could have prepared and properly supervised the execution of the Will and other documents that most likely would not have been subject to dispute or contest. While contesting a last will cannot be completely avoided, the use of an estate attorney supervised papers and possibly life time trusts can go along way towards circumventing post-death controversies.

A Will can be contested on many grounds including undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity and lack of due execution.  However, the more preparation and care that is taken in implementing an estate plan, the less likely it is that someone will attempt to dispute its validity.

I have represented many clients in connection with preparing and finalizing the planning of their estate. I have also been involved in numerous New York Will Contest cases. My experience in these matters has shown that thinking about the nature of your assets and the persons that you desire to benefit and then creating documents that reflect your intent is the best and only course to follow. Thus, the three best practices to avoid estate litigation are: (i) consider the plan that you want to put into place; (ii) obtain advice and direction as to the best methods and documents to effectuate the plan; and (iii) implement the plan by having the proper documents prepared and signed and safeguarded so that they can be utilized at the appropriate time.

An experienced New York trusts and estates lawyer can assist with guidance for proper Will preparation and execution and Will contests. New York Probate Attorney Jules Martin Haas, Esq. has been representing clients in New York in Trusts and Estates matters and Surrogate’s Court proceedings throughout the past 30 years in Nassau and Suffolk counties. If you or someone you know is involved with or has questions about a New York estate or beneficiary designation, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 or email:, for an initial consultation.

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