By Jason Stern
As a NY estate will contest lawyer with twenty years of experience I can tell you that nothing brings people apart like a NY will contest. When one passes away in New York City with a valid will, presumably one drafted and supervised by an experienced NY estate lawyer, the estate is probated. While probate can be the speediest, most efficient way to process a NY estate, the process also permits a certain level of judicial scrutiny into the facts and circumstances surrounding the document itself.
If the NY estate lawyer did everything properly then the process should not take long. However, if the NY estate lawyer did not do everything they needed to in preparing and executing the instrument, or worse the will was not drafted by an attorney at all, the NY probate my go on indefinitely.
As one of only a handful of NY estate lawyers to successfully litigate and set aside attorney drafted wills I can go through some of the elements that the Surrogate’s Courts of the State of New York will look at before admitting a NY will to probate. First, NY courts will require proof that the instrument was duly executed in accordance with the prerequisites as stated under the Estates Powers and Trusts Law, EPTL of New York. Secondly, courts will want to see that the decedent was not lacking testamentary capacity to execute such an instrument. Courts will also want to know that the decedent was free from undue influence at the time the NY estate lawyer drafted the instrument. Lastly, there is the lesser known ground to invalidate a will of revocation. If there is proof that the decedent either revoked or attempted to alter the will in a meaningful manner as to revoke it, the act may negate the entire instrument. As a NY estate lawyer I can tell you that either of the four elements stated above may justify the nullification of an otherwise valid will.
Estate of Hallyday
Johnny Hallyday was both a rock star and icon, often referred to as the French Elvis Presley. Throughout his career Hallyday sold more than one hundred (100,000,000) million albums, amassing an estate in excess of three hundred million ($300,000,000.00) dollars. Hallyday passed away on December 5, 2017 leaving behind two natural born children he had with his first wife, daughter Laura Smet depicted above and son David Hallyday. While close with their rock star father, Johnny Hallyday surprised his only natural born children by disinheriting them from his estate. Instead leaving his entire fortune to his second wife Laeticia who is also depicted with Hallyday above.
Hallyday resided in Malibu California for estate tax purposes. Currently both of Hallyday’s children are contesting the contents of their father’s will which they claim makes no sense. Before a party can come forward to contest a NY will they must first show the court that they have the requisite standing to do so. Generally, individuals fall into either two classes of standing. The first class are those who were in a prior will and are adversely affected by the current instrument filed for probate. The other category are heirs, in this case Hallyday’s natural born children would qualify.
Unfortunately, will contests do not only occur in New York but everywhere. For as long as there have been wills will contests have existed. While the possibility of a NY will contest may seem inconvenient, it is an important piece of the checks and balances that instill confidence, integrity and reassurance in the legitimacy of the probate process. As experienced NY estate lawyers we have seen many, many instances where but for such will contest proceedings to inspect the validity of these documents and their execution, a horrible injustice would have resulted.
If you think a family member may have been taken advantage of by an opportunistic relative or friend it never hurts to ask the opinion of an experienced NY will contest lawyer to see if it amounts to undue influence or fraud. Feel free to call the NY will contest lawyers at The Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates for a free consultation at (718) 261-2444. Our Queens estate lawyers have 50 years of combined NY estate law experience drafting and probating the wills for families like yours in the counties of Queens, New York, Kings, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, Orange, Dutchess as well as in the State of New Jersey.