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For Estate Planning, Estate Administration And Disputes

When should someone contest a will?

On Behalf of | Aug 1, 2023 | Estate Administration & Probate, Estate Litigation |

A last will and testament should protect the interests of the heirs and beneficiaries of the testator. However, when the testator dies, they no longer have control of the estate administration process. They are not there to verify whether the estate administrator or personal representative they assigned is carrying out their fiduciary duties according to the testator’s last wishes. As someone with a pecuniary interest in the will, you would want to protect your interests.

If you have legal standing to contest a will, you should do so under the following circumstances.

You believe the appointed executor breached their fiduciary duty

The estate administration process can take months or years to finalize. An executor has a duty to maintain and preserve the testator’s assets before distributing them to the beneficiaries. They receive a fee from the estate funds for performing general estate administration duties. While the process is ongoing, the executor is responsible for managing and investing the estate assets and properties. They can only distribute the estate to the beneficiaries once they settle all the estate’s bills, taxes and outstanding debt. During this time, an executor has control of the estate. They might breach their fiduciary duty by misappropriating estate properties and funds, paying themselves larger administration fees and undervaluing assets for sale.

They have a fiduciary duty to the estate and its beneficiaries. They must prioritize the best interests of the beneficiaries and execute their responsibilities with due prudence and in good faith. You should contest the will if you believe the executor is behaving unscrupulously.

You believe you deserve more than what you received from the will

A distributee should contest a will if they are entitled to a larger share than the will specified. You see, a testator can make changes to a will any time before they die. They might have lacked the testamentary capacity to make or alter a legally valid will at that time. Therefore, you can challenge the will, especially if you believe the testator was under undue influence when they executed the will.

New York also has formal requirements to establish the validity of a will. If the testator did not execute the will lawfully, it might have no bearing in probate. Similarly, regardless of whether the will is valid, it cannot be enforceable if fraud or forgery occurred during the execution of the will.

People might attempt to take your legal share from you through manipulative and deceptive tactics. You have a right to fight for what you believe to be your fair share of your loved one’s estate.