It can be difficult enough to grieve the death of a loved one, so a surprise during the probate process during an already emotional time can be especially difficult to handle. However, challenging the validity of someone's last will and testament is not an action to take lightly.
Although a will contest can be difficult to win, there are certain circumstances that may warrant such an action. These circumstances include when you have a legally valid reason, called a ground, for a will contest.
A will procured by fraud
If you believe your loved one's will was procured by fraud, it may be appropriate to challenge that will. A will may have been procured by fraud if your loved one was tricked into signing it. This could happen if your loved one thought he or she was signing anything other than a will.
Undue influence over the testator
Another valid reason to contest a will is if you believe your loved one was unduly influenced. Undue influence is when someone puts such extreme pressure on the testator causing the testator to lose his or her own free will. This can happen when a person in a position of trust, such as a caregiver, manipulates the testator to leave all or most of his estate to the manipulator. However, alleged threats and verbal abuse are generally not enough to prove undue influence.
A more recent will or a revoked will
The most recently created will should be the one that is used. Additionally, any will that is properly revoked cannot be considered valid in court. If you believe that your loved one revoked his or her will or created a newer will, it may be appropriate to contest the use of the outdated will.
Another ground for a will contest can be technical errors. If a will contains an error or is not signed in accordance with New York laws, the will is not valid. Technical errors are a commonly used ground for will contests, and often occurs when someone tries to draw up his or her own will.
To meet New York law, a will must be:
- In writing
- Signed by the testator
- Signed by two witnesses within 30 days
Sometimes, a surprise in a loved one's will can be upsetting, but a will cannot be contested for any reason. However, if your situation involves a legally valid reason, contesting a will can be the best way to protect your interests and ensure your loved one's wishes are upheld.