From disagreements to estrangements, this world has no shortage of relationship problems. These issues can escalate in tense or emotional situations like the impending or sudden death of a family member. If you’ve experienced a fracture in your family and find yourself disinherited, you have legal recourse.

In New York, one can disinherit a family member. However, as that family member, you may be able to contest the will based on the specifics of your situation. Admissible circumstances could include incapacitation of the individual, undue influence over the deceased (perhaps by a new spouse), invalidity of the will itself or fraud.

Your inheritance as a surviving spouse

While it may be legal, it’s rare to completely disinherit one’s surviving spouse. Disinherited spouses usually receive a portion of their spouse’s estate unless a preexisting exception, like a prenuptial agreement, is in place.

Your inheritance as a surviving child      

If you are a surviving child, you have more to concern yourself with. Wills can be—and, often, are—contested successfully, but there are no guarantees. Your ability to contest with success will depend greatly on the language used in the existing will and the strength of your claim. Are you named a primary beneficiary in a prior will? If so, you need to prove that is the only valid legal document.

Choosing an experienced, trustworthy attorney will be vital to proving your claim to your inheritance, especially for complex estates and those involving out-of-country assets.