What happens when a will is contested?

by | Sep 23, 2020 | Wills |

There may be some situations in which people think they need to contest a will in New York probate court. Contesting a will can be expensive and stressful, so people may want to avoid doing so unless it is absolutely necessary. However, if a person believes that a loved one’s wishes will not be carried out, they might determine that they have no choice but to contest the will.


Only certain people are allowed to contest a will. They are said to have “standing.” A family member who would have been eligible to inherit a portion of the estate under New York law, whether or not they are actually named in the will, has standing. If an individual is named in the will or in a prior will, they are also considered to have standing. Certain entities, such as banks or charities, might also have standing if they are beneficiaries or fiduciaries.

The process

A contest must be filed within a certain time frame. In addition to having standing, the person must also have grounds for contesting the will. People who are considering a will contest may want to consult an attorney to discuss whether they have sufficient grounds since courts proceed with the assumption that the will is a valid one.

Proving sufficient grounds

There are circumstances that make a will contest more likely to succeed. For example, one problem with do-it-yourself wills is that they may be technically incorrect in some aspect or might not cover all situations. If the person has been isolated from loved ones by the primary beneficiary, this could indicate undue influence. Medical evidence might show that the person was not competent to make a will.

Working with an attorney to create a will could decrease the likelihood that it is vulnerable to being contested. An attorney might ensure that the correct legal formalities are observed and could also testify to the person’s mental competence. An attorney might also keep clients informed about scenarios they may not have considered that could be addressed in the will.