Will Contests

Will Contests: How to Reduce the Possibility

Wills can be contested. Will contests are typically Court proceedings in which a Court is called upon to determine the validity of a Last Will. The person challenging the validity of a Will is called the "contestant." The person who is defending the Will is called the "proponent." Most Will contests are made by potential heirs who got little or nothing in the Will. Simply being unhappy about a Will or disappointed in one's personal outcome rarely is a good enough reason to challenge it. There must be a valid legal ground for the objection.

The typical objections in Will contests are: testator lacks mental capacity; testator was under undue influence when signing; or the Will did not meet statutory requirements. Challenges to the validity of a Will must be filed in probate court within a certain number of days after the person making the challenge receives notice of the petition to admit the Will to probate.

Will contests can be avoided by enlisting the services of an experienced probate lawyer, especially if you think someone could challenge the Will. There are several things a lawyer can do: The lawyer may ask a physician to evaluate a testator's mental competence. The lawyer may videotape the signing of the Will (before witnesses), and they can put provisions in the Will that would cause the challenger to be left out of the Will if they contest the Will.  Such provisions are commonly known as "no contest" clauses or "in terrorem" clauses.  If such a provision is used in a Will, a person who objects to the probate of a Will forfeits any bequest under the Will if he loses his challenge and the document is upheld.  New York Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 3-3.5 provides the particulars regarding these clauses.  The statute allows a potential objectant to take a preliminary examination of the attesting witnesses to the Will, the attorney who prepared the Will, the nominated executor and the proponents without forfeiting  rights to receive a bequest.  New York estate lawyers are aware that another method to avoid a possible contest over a Will is to have a person prepare a Living Trust during life so that the probate process can be avoided.  All assets are placed into the trust before death.

I have represented clients in connection with Will contests.  I enjoy being successful on behalf of a client. I work hard to help my clients resolve their legal issues successfully, especially if things looked bad at the outset. I also enjoy working through the nuances of case detail, uncovering something that didn't initially seem obvious and coming to grips with things that can't be controlled so that I can hear a happy client say, "Thank you so much Jules."

I also have many years of experience successfully working with and advising clients in creating and executing wills and estate plans that effectively express their personal desires regarding the disposition and protection of assets. I do this while providing potential tax advantages and security for family and beneficiaries. Regardless of the size of an estate, most adults — young and old — and their families benefit greatly from having a well-prepared estate plan consisting of documents such as a: Last Will, Health Care Proxy, Power of Attorney and Living Will.

Contact me directly at (212) 355-2575 or by e-mail