Contesting a will is a significant decision that can have lasting implications for all parties involved.
In New York, several valid reasons might prompt an individual to challenge a will.
1. Lack of testamentary capacity
One reason to contest a will is if the testator, the person who created the will, lacked the testamentary capacity to do so. Testamentary capacity refers to the mental ability to understand the nature of the act of creating a will, the extent of one’s property and the claims of the individuals named in the will. If the testator suffered from dementia, mental illness or other cognitive impairments, there may be grounds to challenge the will.
2. Undue influence or coercion
Another reason to contest a will is if the testator was under undue influence or coercion when creating the will. If a beneficiary took advantage of the testator’s vulnerability to obtain a larger share of the estate, this could be a valid reason to challenge the will.
3. Improper execution of the will
New York law requires wills to follow specific formalities for the courts to consider them legally valid. The testator must sign the will in the presence of at least two witnesses, and those witnesses must also sign the will. If the will fails to meet these requirements, it may be improperly executed, providing grounds for contesting the will.
4. Existence of a more recent will
Finally, a reason to contest a will is the discovery of a more recent, valid will that supersedes the one used for probate. If a later will exists and accurately reflects the testator’s wishes, the court may invalidate the earlier will in favor of the more recent document.
Understanding these reasons can help individuals determine whether contesting a will is a viable option and can promote a fair distribution of the estate.