The Probate of a New York Will is the method by which a Will is validated by the Surrogate’s Court. After a Will is admitted to probate the named Executor is typically granted letters testamentary which authorizes him to handle estate affairs. This includes the collection of estate assets, the payment of debts and expenses and the distribution of the net estate to the beneficiaries according to the provisions of the Will.
The probate process requires that notice of the proceeding be given to the decedent’s distributees (next of kin). These individuals have a right to file Objections to the Will. Notice is typically given by the service of a Citation which is like a Summons. The Citation sets forth a date for the parties to appear in Court. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published many articles concerning probating a Will.
If any of the distributees want to contest a Will they must file Objections. Usually, Objections are that the Will is invalid due to improper execution or that the decedent did not have testamentary capacity or that the Will was the product of undue influence.
The Objection of Undue Influence is very often difficult to prove. The legal burden of demonstrating undue influence falls on the Objectant. In order to find undue influence a person must show that there was a motive, and opportunity along with the actual exercise of influence such that the decedent’s free will was affected. Undue influence cannot be proven by mere speculation. The person alleging undue influence must provide actual conduct and facts to support the claim.
A recent Dutchess County Estate case decided by Dutchess Surrogate James Pagones involved a claim of undue influence. In Matter of Paulin, which was decided on October 30, 2018, an Objectant asserted that the decedent’s Will was invalid due to undue influence. The proponent of the Will asked the Court to dismiss the objection and grant summary judgment. The Court agreed that undue influence was not shown. In the decision it was noted that the Objectant failed to provide any direct evidence that the proponent acted in any manner to influence the conduct of the decedent when creating the Will. The presence of a motive and opportunity were not sufficient to support the claim.
I have represented many individuals in Probate cases and Will Contest cases throughout the New York City Surrogate’s Court. Call me now for a free review if you have a question or issue concerning an estate.
New York Trusts and Estates Attorney Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to probate and estate settlement throughout New York City including Manhattan and Brooklyn. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.