Contesting a Will in New York is a complicated matter. There are a number of Statutory and Court prescribed rules that control these proceedings. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published numerous articles concerning Will Contests.
When someone is challenging the validity of a Will, essentially they are asserting that a basic requirement of an enforceable Will is lacking. Many references have been provided in this Blog to Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) section 3-2.1 entitled “Execution and attestation of wills; formal requirements”, which sets forth the requirements for executing a Will. This statute mandates that there be at least two (2) attesting witnesses and that the Will be signed at the end of the document. One of the main Will Objections that is typically interposed is that the document was not properly executed. Cases abound where there are issues created when the paper is not signed by the testator in the presence of a witness or the witnesses do not recall whether the testator identified the paper as a Will.
Additional grounds for Objections to a Will include undue influence, fraud, lack of testamentary capacity and coercion. Sometimes forgery is alleged. Whatever the reasons are for claiming the Will is invalid, it is important to recognize that most Will Contest cases are determined based upon the information obtained during the document and deposition discovery phase of the case. During discovery the attesting witnesses and the attorney who drafted the Will and supervised its execution are required to give pre-trial testimony and turn over relevant documents.