Should you challenge a last will and testament?

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2021 | Estate Planning |

If you’re among those in New York who have recently lost a loved one, you no doubt understand how difficult it can be to move on in life in the absence of someone dear to you. It’s emotionally challenging and may also present difficulties in other aspects of life. If legal problems regarding a last will and testament have interrupted your grieving process, you might feel greatly stressed.

Perhaps you believe your loved one’s last will and testament is not as it should be. You might be considering challenging the will in court. Before doing so, it’s a good idea to seek clarification regarding what types of issues constitute a legitimate reason for challenging a will — reasons the court will take into consideration when determining whether or not the document in question is valid.

Dislike of a will’s terms isn’t enough to submit a challenge

Family issues surrounding a last will and testament can be complex and difficult to resolve. If you have siblings or other relatives, and you disagree about the legitimacy of your loved one’s will, it might spark contention between you. However, if you believe there is legitimate cause to challenge the will, you can take the proper legal steps to do so. The following list includes four basic reasons that constitute grounds for submitting a challenge:

  • There is evidence that a violation of state law occurred.
  • The person who signed the will was not of sound mind at the time.
  • Someone threatened or unduly influenced the testator.
  • A signature forgery or other fraud took place.

If one or more of these issues existed when your loved one signed his or her last will and testament, you may have legitimate cause to challenge the will in court.

Understanding testamentary capacity

If you learned that your loved one changed his or her will, it doesn’t necessarily mean the document is invalid. A person may make deletions or updates to a will at any time, providing he or she showed testamentary capacity at the time.

This means that your loved one would have been able to demonstrate that he or she clearly valued his or her assets. It also means that, when signing the will, your loved one understood the legal implications of the process.

No one can force another person to sign a will

Perhaps your loved one was of sound mind when he or she signed a will, but you believe someone placed him or her under duress or unduly influenced his or her decisions. This would constitute a legitimate reason to challenge the will; however, the court would expect you to present evidence to substantiate your claim.

Issues regarding state law or fraud

Like all other states, New York governs the estate planning process according to its own regulations and guidelines. When your loved one signed a will, it must have been in accordance with all applicable laws regarding issues such as who signed the will, who witnessed the signing of the will and other matters.

Legal problems are the last thing you need as you grieve the passing of someone dear to you. Then again, if you know that there is evidence that creates invalidity of your loved one’s will, you have a right to do something about it.