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Could your will be contested after you’re gone?

| Jan 26, 2021 | Wills |

Wills are important. You want to make sure that your wishes are followed. You want your final affairs handled in a certain way. You want your assets to go where they’re most valued or most needed.

Unfortunately, family squabbles can often erupt after a loved one’s death, particularly around that loved one’s will. You’ll want to account for certain factors in drafting your will to minimize the chances that it will be contested.

Why do people contest a will in the first place?

There are all kinds of reasons that people contest a will, but the most common problems start because:

  • The testator kept their will hidden away and didn’t share any information about its contents with their heirs, which can leave the heirs shocked and upset at the terms if they weren’t as expected. 
  • There are suspicions that someone coerced the testator into changing the will in that person’s favor through lies, threats, trickery or force. This is referred to as exerting “undue influence,” which thwarts the testator’s true wishes.
  • The testator wrote a new will (with or without prompting) that differs drastically from previous wills and there are feelings that their cognitive abilities were declining at the time. The lack of testamentary capacity can invalidate a will.
  • A loved one may also contest a testator’s improperly executed will. It’s not uncommon for a judge to throw a will out because there weren’t enough witnesses present at the testator’s signing of the document, or a notary didn’t affix their seal to it as per New York law.

Other problems can crop up if there are multiple wills with different terms and it isn’t clear which is valid. Beneficiaries may also allege that the will the executor files with a court isn’t the testator’s most recent one, thus requiring the court to authenticate which one fits the bill. 

How can you avoid a contested will?

There are steps that you can take to avoid a contest over your New York will. An attorney here in Staten Island can help you do just that by offering guidance about the steps you can take to minimize confusion or hurt feelings among your heirs and by making certain that your will is legally correct. You can also learn about different options for your estate that you may not have considered, some of which may also help prevent problems later between your heirs.