Articles Posted in Contested Estates

Probating a Last Will in New York can be an uncomplicated matter. In many situations the probate proceeding is commenced by a close family member who is named as the Executor in the Will. While there are a number of Court and statutory formalities that must be adhered to, the assistance of an experienced New York City Probate Lawyer can facilitate the process.

I have represented clients for over 30 years in all types of probate proceedings both contested and uncontested. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog provides numerous articles discussing the many issues that can arise regarding Surrogate’s Court procedures. Continue reading

The New York Probate Lawyer Blog in the March 1, 2017 posting discussed some of the aspects involved in a Will Contest in New York. The post referred to a decision by Queens Surrogate Peter Kelly dated February 9, 2017 which dismissed the Objections to the Will and admitted the Will to probate. The decision was in a case called Will of Bellasalmo. One of the Objections to the Will in Bellasalmo was based upon the assertion that the Will was the product of a mistake. The Court pointed out that in order for an Objectant to demonstrate a mistake, it would need to show that the decedent failed to understand the terms of the Will or that the attorney who drafted the Will did not follow the decedent’s instructions. Since the Objectant in Bellasalmo could not provide any evidence in this regard the Objection based upon mistake was dismissed.

It should be pointed out that in a Will Contest case, the Objections that are filed contain a number of different allegations. Typically, the Objections will claim lack of due execution, lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence. Continue reading

Will contests in New York involve many different considerations. To begin with, there is a complex set of statutes and rules regarding the procedure to be followed in these cases. When a Will is filed with the Court for probate, it is necessary to provide notice to all of the decedent’s next of kin regarding the probate proceeding. The next of kin, known as distributees, have a right to Object to the Will. The notice they receive is called a Citation.

Prior to filing Objections to a Will, the distributees have the right to obtain testimony and documents from the attorney who drafted the Will and the attesting witnesses. These steps are provided for by Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) Section 1404 entitled “Witnesses to be examined; proof required”. Continue reading

Probating a Will in New York is usually not a contentious process. The original Will is filed with the Court and typically the person named in the Will as the Executor prepares and files a Probate Petition. When a Will is admitted to probate, the Court issues Letters Testamentary to the petitioner. This document provides the executor with the authority to administer the decedent’s estate.

As discussed in prior posts in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog, all of the decedent’s next of kin (“distributees”) must be given notice of the probate proceeding. Each distributee has a right to object to the Will. The procedures involved with Will Objections necessitate that all of the parties engage in a discovery process so that the Court can be presented with facts regarding the validity of the Will.
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In most instances the filing of a Last Will for probate is a straight forward process.  The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has posted many articles regarding the probate of a Will. The typical persons who petition the Court in these proceedings are close relatives such as a spouse or children.  Moreover, it is rather common that the Will beneficiaries are the same close relatives and that all of these individuals receive benefits under the Will provisions.

For example, a familiar scenario is a Last Will in which the decedent leaves his entire estate to his spouse if the spouse is living and if the spouse is not alive, then equally to his children or descendants.  Continue reading

The preparation of a Last Will is an essential part of estate planning. However, once a Will has been finalized and signed it is the final document that exists to reflect a decedent’s intentions regarding the disposition of his estate.

After the testator’s death, the Last Will that was created must be filed with the Surrogate’s Court. Such filing is the start of the Probate Process by which the Will is admitted to probate and its terms are validated. Continue reading

There are many types of proceedings that occur relating to a decedent’s estate. One of the most common matters involves the probate of a Last Will and Testament. New York estate lawyers are familiar with the manner in which a Will is presented to the Surrogate’s Court. In the typical case, the original of the Will is filed with the Court along with a death certificate, a petition and other papers. Having a Will admitted to probate simply means that the Will is validated by the Court and its provisions regarding asset distribution and other directions must be followed. At the time probate occurs the Court appoints an estate fiduciary who is typically the Executor nominated in the Will. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has posted many articles explaining the probate of an estate.

In some situations the probate process turns into a Will Contest. When the situation concerns a contested Will, the typical occurrence is that one or more of the decedent’s next of kin (“distributees”) disputes the validity of the Will. This dispute can be based upon the grounds of undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity or improper execution of the Will. Continue reading

There are countless articles and advisory papers that have been written in which people are urged to prepare an Estate Plan. The use of advanced planning documents such as a Last Will, Living Will, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy and Living Trust allow a person to specify the manner in which assets are to be managed and tranferred and substituted decision making can be established.

As discussed in many posts in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog, where these planning papers do not exist, the disposition of a person’s estate is left up to the inheritance provisions of State law relating to intestacy. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

The New York Probate process has been the subject of numerous posts in this blog.   A Last Will that is prepared by a person must be admitted to probate or validated by the Surrogate’s Court so that the provisions of the Will become effective. The decedent’s distributes or next of kin must receive notice of the probate proceeding and they have a right to contest the Will.   Usually, the distributees receive a paper called a Citation, which is like a summons, that advises them as to the date when the probate proceeding is to appear on the Court calendar.   At that time, the distributees can file objections to the Will or ask for preliminary discovery that is allowed by Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (“SCPA”) Section 1404.

There are many specific rules and procedures that apply to the process of contesting a Will. Some of these requirements have been the subject of recent Surrogate’s Court decisions. In Estate of Basil Constant, decided on June 30, 2014, Bronx Surrogate Nelida Malave-Gonzalez reviewed an application to expand what is known as the “3/2” rule.  This rule is contained in section 207.27 of the New York Uniform Rules for Surrogate’s Court and provides that in connection with an examination before trial (i.e. discovery) such examination is limited to a period of time that is three years before the date of the Will and two years thereafter or the decedent’s date of death, whichever is shorter. While the examination period can be extended by Court Order, the Court needs to find special circumstances to expand the time periods.  In Constant the Court did not allow an expansion of the time periods to allow an inquiry about an earlier Will that the decedent allegedly had made.

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