Taking Effective, Decisive Action in Will Contests
A loved one’s death is an emotional event that will often impact the lives of many people. Ideally, the deceased’s last will and testament leaves no doubt as to his or her intentions. Unfortunately, there are certain situations that can give rise to a will contest. If you have reasons to challenge the validity of a will, or if a family member is contesting what you believe to be a valid will, you need to contact a skilled lawyer immediately.
I am Joe Gruner, a Tarrytown based trusts and estates attorney with more than four decades of legal experience. I represent individuals who wish to contest a will, as well as executors and other family members who must defend a will contest. While based in White Plains, I work with clients in all five boroughs, Westchester County and Nassau County.
What Are the Grounds for Contesting a Will?
In New York, there are limited grounds to contest a will and only potential heirs (those who would inherit from the decedent if there was no will) can bring such a proceeding. The grounds to contest a will include:
Improper execution — If a will fails to meet certain specific formalities, it can be invalidated. For instance, if there are an insufficient number of witnesses to the signing of the will, or if the will has not been signed by the testator, there may be cause to invalidate the will.
Lack of testamentary capacity — The person who signs the will (the testator) must have the necessary testamentary capacity at the time it is signed. If there is evidence indicating that the testator was suffering from dementia, had a significant loss of memory or was otherwise mentally incapacitated, the will can be deemed to be invalid.
Fraud or forgery — Fraud involves tricking or misleading a testator into signing a will, often by portraying it as something other than a last will and testament; forgery involves faking the testator’s signature on the will.
Undue influence — To succeed on the grounds of undue influence, the party contesting the will must prove that the alleged influencer exerted such intense pressure on the testator that it caused the testator to lose free will, and to name the influencer as beneficiary, instead of the natural bounties of the testator’s affections.
Whether you want to contest a will or defend against a challenge to a will, I will analyze the factual and legal issues and provide you with a frank assessment of your claim. One of the major risks in many will contests is that the legal fees associated with defending or prosecuting the claim are disproportionate to what is at stake. In many instances, negotiation and mediation produce a solution without the need for costly litigation, saving you, the client, time, money and unnecessary aggravation. I am always considerate of the balance that needs to be maintained and will always attempt to negotiate an equitable solution to avoid litigation and to mitigate your costs.