Contesting a Will
The death of a loved one can bring out a variety of complex emotions. It is a difficult time, with preparations to be made, forms to be filled out, and relatives and friends of the deceased to contend with. Everyone claims to want what is in the best interests of the person who passed and to do things in a manner that person would have approved of or wanted for themselves. It is at times like this that a last will and testament becomes so important. A properly drawn will can express the wishes of the departed, and will help to ensure those wishes are obliged. Problems arise when a family member or loved one is unhappy with the terms of the will, or suspects the will is not valid. If you suspect a problem, you may have the option of contesting a will in court. Before proceeding with this type of legal action, it helps to know exactly what makes a will valid, as well as potential ways in which you might be able to contest it.
Requirements for a Valid Will
A last will and testament is a written declaration of how a person wants their property and assets to be distributed after their death. The legal requirements for a will include not only that it be signed in the presence of two witnesses, but also that the following conditions are met:
The will must have been created and signed under the person’s own free will, without any undue pressure or influence;
The will must be signed in good faith. Any type of fraud in obtaining signatures on the will would render it invalid; and
The person making the will must have had sufficient legal capacity. In other words, they must be in their right mind, and not suffering from dementia or any type of illness or condition that would cloud their judgment;
Any will that does not conform to the letter of the law could be contested in terms of validity in court.
Contesting A Will
While contesting and proving a will is invalid is not easy, it is not impossible either. Under the rules of the surrogate’s court where the will is filed, you would need to provide the following:
The specific acts or conduct alleged to have caused undue influence on the person named in the will;
The specific false statements, representations, or other acts of fraud alleged to have occurred in order to secure the person’s signature on the will;
Proof of any violence or force that may have been a factor in obtaining a signature on the will; and/or
Proof of any physical or medical condition impairing the person’s judgment at the time they made the will.
You could also contest the will on the grounds that it had been changed at a later date, and you would need to provide a copy of the most recent will the person had made.
Contact Our Experienced Elder Law Attorneys
Contesting a will is a complicated matter. At Cavallo & Cavallo, our experienced New York estate attorneys understand how important it is that your loved ones wishes be honored. We work diligently on behalf of family members in contesting wills that are fraudulent or that were procured under duress. We will fight to protect your best interests while ensuring justice is served. With offices in the Bronx and Westchester, we’re your neighborhood law firm, providing efficient, effective legal representation to handle all your legal needs.