Contesting a Will in New York

How Is a Will Contested in New York?

When a loved one passes away and their will is revealed, it’s usually a time to respect their wishes and distribute their assets accordingly. However, there are situations where individuals may have valid reasons to contest a will. At Morgan Legal Group in New York City, we understand that will contests can be complex and emotionally challenging. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the process of contesting a will in New York, the grounds for contestation, and what to expect when facing a will contest.

Grounds for Contesting a Will

Contesting a will means challenging the validity of the document. In New York, there are several grounds upon which a will can be contested:

  1. Lack of Testamentary Capacity: This occurs when the testator (the person creating the will) did not have the mental capacity to understand the consequences of their actions at the time of creating the will. Mental illness, dementia, or undue influence by another party could be factors in claiming lack of testamentary capacity.
  2. Undue Influence: If someone exerted improper influence over the testator, forcing them to make decisions against their will or best interests, the will can be contested on the grounds of undue influence.
  3. Fraud: If it can be proven that the testator was deceived or misled into creating or changing their will, the document may be contested due to fraud.
  4. Forgery: Contesting a will on the grounds of forgery involves proving that the testator’s signature or critical sections of the will were falsified.
  5. Improper Execution: New York has specific requirements for how a will should be signed and witnessed. If these requirements are not met, the will can be contested on the grounds of improper execution.
  6. Revocation: A newer will can revoke a previous one. Contesting a will may involve proving that a subsequent will exists and should take precedence.
  7. Construction Issues: Sometimes, a will’s language is unclear or ambiguous. Contesting a will on construction issues involves seeking a court’s interpretation of the document.

The Will Contest Process

The process of contesting a will in New York typically follows these steps:

  1. Consulting an Attorney: If you believe you have valid grounds to contest a will, consult with an experienced estate litigation attorney who can evaluate your case.
  2. Filing a Petition: Your attorney will file a petition in the Surrogate’s Court, the specialized court responsible for handling estate matters.
  3. Discovery: Both sides gather evidence and information about the case, which may include depositions, document requests, and interrogatories.
  4. Mediation or Settlement: Parties may attempt mediation or reach a settlement to avoid a lengthy court battle.
  5. Court Proceedings: If no settlement is reached, the case goes to trial in Surrogate’s Court.
  6. Verdict and Distribution: The court makes a final decision. If the will is invalidated, the estate is distributed according to prior valid wills or New York’s intestacy laws.

Challenges in Will Contests

Contesting a will can be emotionally challenging, and it’s essential to understand that it may strain family relationships. Additionally, proving grounds for contestation can be legally complex. Having a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in estate litigation can greatly assist in navigating these challenges.


Contesting a will in New York is a legal process that requires valid grounds and careful consideration. At Morgan Legal Group, we are committed to helping individuals and families in New York City with their estate litigation needs, including will contests. If you believe you have a legitimate reason to contest a will or are facing a will contest, reach out to us for experienced legal guidance and representation.

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Questions And Answers

In New York, a will is contested when an interested party of the will questions its validity. This is a common occurrence, but it is not completely understood by many. The main purpose of contesting a will should be to ensure that the property and assets of the deceased is distributed according to the wishes of the deceased.

In New York, only those who have a direct link with the will can contest it. In other words, heirs-at-law and beneficiaries can contest a will. They must stand to gain or to lose financially from the will.

A will is contested in New York if it meets certain grounds to do so. This includes due execution, undue influence, revocation, fraud, and incapacitation.

Due execution is used to see if the executor of an estate is acting in line with the will of the deceased. If it is found that the executor is not acting in accordance with the will then it is grounds to contest a will in New York.

When contesting a will in New York, testamentary capacity can be used as grounds to invalidate the will. Testamentary capacity refers to whether the writer of the will was mentally capable of signing and creating the will.

Undue influence refers to whether the creator of will did so of their own volition. If they were coerced into writing the will then it would fall under undue influence and be grounds for contesting the will.

Undue influence is grounds to contest a will in New York if there was a motive for creating the will or if there was opportunity to be gained from making the will. Additionally, if undue influence is specifically carried out also constitutes coercion.

Yes, revocation is grounds to content a will in New York. Additionally, revocation refers to when a will is revoked by a testator.

Yes, fraud is grounds to contest a will in New York. Moreover, fraud is when the testator was brought by fraud to create a will.

Yes, incapacitation is grounds to contest a will in New York. This falls under testamentary capacity. Therefore, if the creator of the will was not in a proper mental state to create and sign the will then it could constitute incapacitation and be grounds to be contested.

While it is possible to contest a will in New York without a lawyer, it is not advisable. You want a lawyer with knowledge and experience to help guide you through the process of contesting a will. They navigate the process and will know the best plan to successfully contest a will.   

The New York courts will seek to discover whether the creator of the will had the mental capacity to create and sign the will. Moreover, they will look for three factors. These three factors are whether the creator knew the nature and consequences of the will, whether the creator of the will knew the extent of what they were disposing of in the will, and whether the creator of the will knew the extent of who they were listing in the will.

A will is valid in New York if the creator has signed the will along with two witnesses.

No, you may not contest a will in New York if you have no financial interest in it. However, the person may object to the executor of the will.

Yes, you may have multiple grounds to contest a will. Therefore, a will can be found invalid for multiple reasons. For example, a judge may find that a will is invalid because of due execution, undue influence, and incapacitation.

To contest a will, you will need evidence to support your claim. The more evidence you can produce the better chance you have of winning your case against the will. A will contested in New York will need ample evidence.

Yes, a judge can use discretion in a will contested in New York. Therefore, if the judge decides only one of the grounds is sufficient for invalidation of the will, then only one provision will be set forth.

If a will contested in New York is found to be invalid, then one of a few things can happen. The court will not admit the will either entirely or partially, they can admit an earlier will instead, or they will not admit anything and have the estate distributed as if there was no will, which means the family of the deceased.

No, you cannot contest a will if you are discontent with the particulars of the will. You need solid, legal grounds to contest a will.

A will contested in New York will be aided greatly by the assistance of an attorney. An attorney who specializes in estate planning and probate can lend their expertise to your case. They will advise you through the process and take away a lot of the stress associated therein.