If you are an adult sibling who is unhappy with the way your parents’ estate was divided in their will, you may wonder if you have any legal recourse to challenge the will and get a fair share of the inheritance. Indeed, there are grounds for contesting a will in New York City, but not every dispute is valid.
What are the grounds?
Any person affected by a will may challenge the will after it is submitted to the court for approval. This is called a “will contest.” However, not every dispute is valid, and there are four main grounds for contesting a New York City will.
Lack of testamentary capacity
This means that the person who made the will (the testator) did not have the mental ability to understand what they were doing, what their assets were, who their beneficiaries were and how their will would affect them. This could be due to dementia, mental illness, intoxication or other factors that impaired their judgment at the time of making the will.
This means that someone exerted pressure or manipulation on the testator to make them change their will in favor of that person or against someone else. This could be done by threats, coercion, isolation, deception or other means that overcame the testator’s free will.
This means that someone tricked or deceived the testator into signing a will that they did not intend to make or did not know what it contained. This could be done by forging the testator’s signature, switching documents, lying about the contents of the will or some other fraudulent acts.
This means that the will was not made according to the legal formalities required by New York law. For example, the will was not signed by the testator in front of two witnesses who also signed it, the witnesses were not present at the same time or they were interested parties who stood to benefit from the will.
If you believe you have grounds
If you believe that you have valid grounds to contest your parent’s will, you need to act quickly. File an objection with the Surrogate’s Court where the will was admitted to probate.
You need to do this within a certain time limit after you receive a notice of probate from the executor of the estate. The time limit varies depending on your relationship with the testator and whether you live in New York or not. Generally, it ranges from 4-6 months.