It is important to know your rights if you are disinherited. New York inheritance laws are rather complex. There are many occasions where a close family member learns that they have not been provided for in a decedent’s Last Will. These situations often result in Estate Litigation in the form of a Will Contest.
A recent case involving the death of French rock star Johnny Hallyday is a typical example of children being left out of a Will. In an article by Henry Samuel in a February 2018 post of The Telegraph, it was reported that Mr. Hallyday left his entire fortune to his fourth wife. Two of his older children were left nothing in a Will which was redone shortly before Mr. Hallyday died.In New York, a testator can disinherit his children. However, when this occurs, the children have a right to contest the Will on various grounds such as lack of due execution, lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence and duress. The authenticity of the purported Will can also be investigated. Of course, each case must be thoroughly examined since not every Will can be successfully challenged.
The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has posted numerous articles concerning contested Wills. One important consideration is that Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) Section 1404 “Witnesses to be examined; proof required” allows an interested party to obtain the deposition testimony of the attorney who drafted the Will and the attesting witnesses, as well as document production of medical and financial information of the decedent. This discovery information is essential in determining whether a person should file formal Objections to the Will.
Not everyone has a right to file Objections. Only the persons who would financially benefit if the Will was denied probate such as the decedent’s next of kin. Also, an Estate Lawyer can explain that a decedent is not permitted to disinherit a surviving spouse. A spouse has a right, pursuant to Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) Section 5-1.1-A (“Right of election by surviving spouse”), to file a Right of Election. This statute allows a spouse to receive at least one-third of the estate no matter what the Will provides. Probate in Manhattan or Probate in Brooklyn or other New York Counties involves the same procedures that are talked about in this article.
Surrogate’s Court cases can be very complex especially when the validity of a Will is concerned. I have represented many individuals in Will Contests including Contestants and named Executors who are trying to Probate a Will. If you have a question or problem concerning Probate or Estate Administration, call me now for a free review.
An experienced New York trusts and estates lawyer can assist with guidance for proper Will preparation and execution. 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 Suffolk and Nassau and other counties. If you or someone you know is involved with or has questions about a New York estate matter, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 or email: Jules.Haas@verizon.net, for an initial consultation.