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Westchester County Will Contest
Westchester County is the seventh most populous county in the state of New York as of the 2020 United States Census. It is the county with the second highest median income per person, and as of 2013, it had the highest property taxes of any county in the country. In 2011, its annual per capita income was $67,813. When some residents of Westchester County die, they leave behind sizeable estates. If they die without creating a valid will, their property passes according to the rules of intestacy. However, certain formalities must be followed to create an enforceable will. A will created as the result of undue influence or fraud should not be enforced. If you believe you need to bring or defend against a will contest, you should talk to a trusted and respected Westchester County estate litigation attorney. Jules M. Haas has more than three decades of experience helping clients through difficult situations involving a loved one’s estate. Mr. Haas represents proponents of wills, along with those who object to wills in will contests.Will Contests
After your loved one dies, his or her will must be admitted to probate. Certain people with a pecuniary interest in the decedent’s estate are automatically entitled to challenge the will by filing a will contest. The court will find you have a pecuniary interest and are entitled to file the will contest if you are a beneficiary who would receive less under a last will and testament than you would have received under a different, earlier will. Alternatively, to file a will contest, you should be a person entitled to inherit under the laws that govern intestacy.
New York rules of intestacy dictate to whom a decedent’s property should be given when they have not left an enforceable will. First in line are the decedent’s spouse and child. Next are grandchildren or the decedent’s parents. Those who would ordinarily inherit under the laws of intestacy sometimes discover, after their loved one’s death, that they were disinherited in a will of which they were not made aware.
A range of different circumstances can propel someone in Westchester County to challenge a will or seek to have it enforced. For example, if your spouse died and left his house to his stepchildren from an earlier marriage, instead of you, you might feel suspicious about this decision and want to object to the will. For another example, if your mother made a new will, leaving you all her money, because you took care of her in her last years, and in so doing, disinherited your sibling from whom she was estranged, you might want to enforce the will; your sibling may have strong feelings that you unfairly influenced your mother.
You should consult a knowledgeable attorney about whether your particular circumstances warrant a will contest.Filing an Objection
Assuming you’re entitled to file a will contest, your first step should be to retain an experienced lawyer who can file an objection with the Surrogate’s Court. The objection must state valid reasons for a will contest. These reasons can include:
- Failure to follow formalities,
- Undue influence,
Wills are only valid in Westchester County and elsewhere in New York when certain formalities are followed. One of the first things Mr. Haas will look at when assessing a prospective client’s case is whether a testator’s will seems enforceable. Among other things, to be enforceable, a will must be created by a person who is 18-years-old or older, and who is of sound mind and memory. The signing of the will must be witnessed by two people. If, for example, your spouse had Alzheimer’s and mental illness, and disinherited you, you might wish to file a will contest to challenge the provisions of a will on the grounds that he was not of sound mind and memory.Undue Influence
Undue influence is another common reason for bringing a will contest. It exists when a person used inappropriate coercion to require a person to leave him or her property in a will. Often, these grounds are raised when a person who had a relationship of trust with a decedent seems to have manipulated him or her with regard to the terms of the will. When reviewing your case, we would consider any suspicious circumstances surrounding the decedent’s execution of the will. If, for example, a more distant relative was present during the execution of your father’s will, and that person received an unusual share of money, it might be appropriate to allege undue influence in a will contest.Fraud
There are also situations in which extremely underhanded, self-interested behavior results in a will whose terms are unexpected. If fraud is the basis for a will contest that we file on your behalf, we will need to prove not only that you have standing to contest the will, but that the decedent was deceived such that he or she disposed of property in a way that he otherwise would not have done.Consult an Experienced Estate Litigation Attorney
Will contests can bring up sensitive and heated issues within families. It is crucial to retain knowledgeable legal counsel if you believe you need to challenge or defend against a will. Call experienced Westchester County lawyer Jules M. Haas now for a free confidential review at (212) 355-2575 or contact him through our online form. We provide a reasonable and flexible fee arrangement and personal representation.