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Common legal grounds for will contests

Estate planning is an exercise to ensure that our personal property is distributed to our heirs and beneficiaries in the way we see fit. For a myriad of reasons, this may be difficult for those choosing to leave property and assets to loved ones. At the same time, beneficiaries may have vastly different ideas about what they should be entitled to even though a will may have been drafted.

These disputes may play out in court in the form of will contests. New York law has a procedure to address these concerns in Surrogates court. Before a probate judge may hear a matter, there must be a legal basis for the will contest. This post will examine some of the most common bases for such proceedings.

The will lacks proper signatures – In order for a will to be valid under state law, it must be properly executed by the testator (the person making the will) as well as two witnesses. A will may be challenged on the grounds that the signatures do not meet the proper legal requirements.

Undue influence – In addition to being of sound mind, the testator must not be coerced into executing the will. As such, the will may be challenged on the grounds that one of the beneficiaries, or another third party had improper influence on the testator in the course of signing the will.

A second will – Indeed, wills can be revoked through the execution of a proper codicil (i.e. a revised will). However, what happens when the second will does not revoke or correct provisions of the prior will?

If a will is proven to be invalidated, the legal recognition would be invalidated and the distributions based on it could be also be invalidated. If you have questions about will contests, an experienced probate attorney can advise you.

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