Will contests are one type of estate litigation where the objectant challenges the validity of a will. Under the laws of New York, only certain individuals can challenge the probate of a Last Will and Testament, known as a “will contest”. In order to have standing to contest a will, you must have a “pecuniary interest”. A pecuniary interest is an interest relating to money; therefore the following persons have standing to contest a will:
- Distributees (heirs at law) who would receive less under the the last will and testament than they would receive if there were no will; and
- Beneficiaries who would receive less under the purported will than they would under a prior last will and testament.
Distributees or beneficiaries without a pecuniary interest can only object to the appointment of a named executor who was named as executor in the will through fraud or undue influence. Such a distributee or beneficiary cannot contest the other provisions of the will. Your probate attorney can assist you in determining whether you have standing to contest a will being offered for probate.
Once it is established that an individual has standing to contest the will, objections can be filed in Surrogate’s Court to prevent the will from being probated. Under New York Law, a will contest may be based on the following grounds:
- Undue Execution
- The will was not properly executed.
- The will was revoked by the testator.
- The testator lacked testamentary capacity to execute a last will and testament.
- The testator was induced by fraud in making or executing the will.
- Undue Influence
- Undue influence was exerted upon the testator in the making or executing the will.
In subsequent posts in this series, “Will Contests”, we will discuss, in greater detail, each ground on which a will may be contested
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