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Minor typos can lead to major will contests

| Mar 26, 2019 | Probate |

Keeping property within a family is important to many people. Whether the desired asset is a small piece of jewelry or a substantial tract of land, passing along assets must be done correctly. Even if New York residents think they have taken the correct steps to ensure the desired distribution of their assets, a minor mistake in estate planning documents could result in will contests.

It was recently reported that a dispute over hundreds of acres of land took place in another state. Apparently, the land has been in the same family since the early 1800s, and the most recent heir to the land left instructions in his will as to how the property should pass after his death. The man died in 2014, and the will stipulated that the property should pass to his son and then to his son’s children. In the event of his son’s passing, the property was to pass to the man’s nieces and nephew. However, if no remaining beneficiaries existed, the property would be divided between multiple charitable organizations.

The dispute arose after the man’s death and his son’s death. The son did not have any children at the time of his passing in 2015, so it appeared that the property would pass to the nieces and nephew. The charitable organizations took issue with that distribution because the man’s will stated that the property should only go to those parties should the son die before the man. The judge involved in the case ruled against the charities, finding that a typo had left out two words in the will but that the intention was clear that the property should pass to the children.

As this case shows, even a minor error can lead to will contests. Though the situation worked in favor of the intended beneficiaries, it is important that estate planning documents are written as clearly as possible and that mistakes are avoided. Of course, that is not always what happens, and New York residents may find themselves in need of legal assistance in order to address the litigation stemming from estate issues.