If you are concerned about the possibility of someone challenging your will or that of a loved one, or if you want to contest a will yourself, it can be helpful to know the grounds on which this can be done. Only certain people may contest a will, and there must be a reason besides simply not liking how assets are distributed. Like every state, New York has very precise laws about how and under what circumstances a will contest may occur, but in general, an improperly prepared will or a will that raises questions about the creator’s mental capacity may be vulnerable to challenges.
Fraud, undue influence and lack of capacity
If the will is based on fraudulent information or it can be shown that the testator was coerced in some way, the will may be considered invalid. The testator may also have been pressured into creating the will with insufficient legal counsel. A will could be invalidated if the testator was incapable of rational decision-making or did not have the mental capacity to understand the consequences of distribution of assets among beneficiaries or other aspects of the document. Another example of a lack of capacity would be if the testator did not understand their relationship with the beneficiaries.
Formality and other reasons
A failure of formality means that the will is technically incorrect in some way based on state law. This could mean it has the wrong number of witnesses or that someone has signed it in the wrong place, although a court might overlook minor errors. A will contest could also occur if a later document is found or if it the provisions in an earlier will were not correctly revoked.
To avoid family conflict over your will, it may be better to prepare the estate plan when you are younger and in good health so that there are not ground to argue for incapacity. However, the right to contest a will may be important in protecting a loved one’s assets, and people considering it may want to consult an attorney.