Most people prepare their estate plans and Last Wills and expect that the provisions and directions they set forth can be carried out after death. The rationale for planning an estate is to avoid intestacy which would leave to chance the manner in which an estate is to be distributed. As discussed in many articles in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog, when a person dies without a Will, the New York estate laws provide that the estate is distributed to the decedent’s next of kin. This result may not always reflect a testator’s intent.
When a Will is submitted to the Surrogate’s Court for probate, the estate laws and procedures require that official notice be provided to the decedent’s next of kin. This is because these individuals have a right to contest the Will. If a Will is invalidated, the decedent’s estate is distributed to the next of kin.In most situations, a testator does not need to worry about anyone filing Objections to a Will. Typically, the primary beneficiary of a Will is a spouse and children or other close relatives who are the same individuals that would have the right to contest.
However, there are many cases where Will Contests occur. Thus, it is important to understand the basic grounds which are set forth in Objections. These grounds are as follows: (i) lack of due execution; (ii) lack of testamentary capacity; and (iii) undue influence.
Will must be executed in accordance with the statutory formalities provided in the estate laws. Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) Section 3-2.1 entitled “Execution and attestation of wills; formal requirements” sets forth the basic requirements. Additionally, a testator must be found to have testamentary capacity. This means that the person signing the Will understood: (i) that he was preparing a Will; (ii) that he knew the nature of his assets; and (iii) that he was aware of his family members. Finally, a person executing a Will should be free from any undue influence that would have changed the manner in which the testator’s estate was disposed of.
A recent Manhattan estate case entitled Estate of Davidovich, decided on May 30, 2018 by Manhattan Surrogate Nora Anderson, discusses the various Objection grounds. In Davidovich, the Court found that the Objectant did not provide a prima facie demonstration that the Will was not properly executed. However, the Court did find that there was no issue regarding the decedent’s testamentary capacity and that an issue of fact existed regarding undue influence.
Will Contests can be very complicated cases and require the discovery of many facts surrounding the creation and execution of a Will. I have represented many clients in Contested Will cases including Objectants and proponents of a Will. Call me now for a free review if you have a question regarding probate or a Will Contest.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org, for an initial consultation.