Five Things To Know About a Will Contest in New York City
A day will come, or maybe it has already happened to you, that a loved one passes away. In the tumult of making arrangements after their passing you may learn about a will, but come to find out that your name is not mentioned in it. Your loved one who you spent countless hours with, grew up with, and who you believed was very fond of you, somehow left all their worldly possessions to a neighbor which you had always believed was despised or someone you never even knew existed. At this point, a contest of the will seems warranted and here are 5 things you should know about such a contest in New York City:
1) Know Your Grounds
As unfair as it seems when a loved one omits you from their estate, “that’s not fair” is not sufficient grounds alone to challenge the will. Other than a spouse, a person is free to exclude any family member from their estate as they see fit. In other words, you are not entitled to someone’s estate simply based on blood relation. Children can be excluded, parents, siblings, and other family members. A will challenge must be based on at least one of the following grounds: lack of capacity, undue influence, fraud, duress, lack of formality, or mistake. The law is fairly straight forward about when and how you can contest a will in New York City – so your best bet is to contact an estate lawyer.
2) Challenging a Will is Expensive
Attorney’s rarely work for free and you should not expect an attorney to take on a will challenge pro-bono or for a small fee. The strenuous effort to effectively challenge a will requires motions, court hearings, extensive examinations, conferences, and possibly trial. As you might gather, this all takes time and legal expertise. No will challenge case is a homerun. However, if after a proper evaluation, the law firm determines your case has a decent shot at success, they might consider representing you based on a contingency arrangement. This basically means is that the attorney does not get paid unless the will is overturned by the Surrogate’s Court or a settlement is reached. Lastly, do not attempt fighting a will on your own. There are just some things in life you must hire an attorney for, this is one of them. And if you’re not paying much, it’s probably a good idea to consult with other law firms.
3) Know If a Lawyer Was Involved
Odds are pretty good that if an attorney was involved during the will signing of the person who passed away, especially a New York City Estate Litigation Lawyer, the will formalities were followed. Estate lawyers deal with challenges to wills throughout their career, so they know exactly what to watch out for. Probate lawyers are familiar with the process of a will contest so they typically exercise due diligence in the will drafting process. This doesn’t mean that all attorney drafted will are perfect. Lawyers are people too, and as such, they make mistakes. If you’re considering litigating a last will and testament of a deceased, you’ll need an experienced estate attorney of your own to fight for you.
4) Settling May Be An Option
Attorney’s fees can rack up quicker than you can imagine. Even if you believe you have an absolute winner of a case, it is important to put your emotions to the side. Fighting tooth and nail to get the justice you deserve may feel good, but it comes at a cost. Consider settling the case so you can avoid paying for countless hours of attorney’s fees. The longer a case drags on – especially once it reaches court, the more you will owe your lawyer, and the less you may end up with at the end of the case. An objective cost analysis may reveal that an early settlement is more financially prudent than spending years in Surrogate’s Court.
5) Laws of Intestacy
Before you start making plans, read up on the NY laws of intestacy. If the will of the deceased is thrown out by the Surrogate’s Court, will you inherit the entire or a portion of the estate? You may not necessarily be rewarded for your hard work even if you are successful in contesting the will because of certain New York statutes. Laws are already in place in cases where a person passes away without leaving a will (known as intestacy). Read this helpful guide to familiarize yourself with the basics of who is entitled to which assets if a will is thrown out by the court and considered invalid. While the guide is a helpful resource to begin with, it is still imperative that you consult with an attorney to gain a complete understanding of the options you may have, the laws concerning wills, and the best way to advance your goals.
If you are in a position where you may need to contest a New York City will, contact our firm at (646) 233-0826 or send us an email using our contact form. We can review your case and advise you on the best course of action.