New York Estate Planning Documents Can Be Disputed During Estate Settlement

It is important to complete estate planning papers so that a person’s intentions and desires are clearly set forth. The list of documents to plan an estate can include a Last Will and a Living Trust. When an Estate Planning Lawyer prepares these papers it is important to provide the attorney with all family and asset information so that the documents that are prepared are complete and accurate.

For example, it is necessary to review all asset information. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published many articles discussing the different issues associated with various assets for planning purposes. If an individual owns joint assets or assets where there are designated beneficiaries, these items typically are not controlled by the terms of a Will. These types of assets pass directly to the joint owner or the named beneficiary.

Another consideration not to be overlooked are agreements or contracts that may have an impact on an individual’s estate plan. These contracts can include business agreements such as shareholder agreements or marital agreements such as a Pre-Nuptial agreements or divorce settlements. All of these papers can impact an estate plan and their provisions must be considered when preparing a Will or Trust.

A recent case decided by the Second Department Appellate Division on February 7, 2018 entitled Matter of Koegel, provides an insight into the need to carefully review all of a testator’s contracts when creating an estate plan.

In Koegel, the decedent had entered into a Pre-Nuptial Agreement with his spouse. The agreement essentially provided that the parties waived their rights to claim any portion of the other’s estate except for the items each decided to actually provide for the other. When the testator died, the surviving spouse filed a Right of Election against his estate which would have entitled the survivor to claim one-third of the decedent’s estate. When the estate executor sought to dismiss the Right of Election based upon the Pre-Nuptial agreement, the surviving spouse claimed that the Pre-Nuptial agreement was not properly acknowledged by a notary public. In the Koegel case, the appellate Court refused to dismiss the executor’s petition to invalidate the Right of Election. The Court found that the notary acknowledgment could be shown to be valid by extrinsic or other proof. The lesson from Koegel is that all papers and documents should be thoroughly reviewed when considering an estate plan and preparing a Will and Trust.

I have been involved in many cases where there is Estate Litigation, such as Will Contests and Right of Election and Kinship issues, that may arise due to matters that might have been considered when the estate plan was created. If you have a question or issue regarding an estate plan or Estate Settlement, 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 New York and Bronx 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:, for an initial consultation.

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