It is possible, in Erie County, New York, to go to court and claim that a will is invalid, in some cases. This is called a Will Contest.
Sometimes, testators leave out of their wills people who might naturally expect to inherit a substantial portion of the testator's estate (spouses and children, for example). This might lead them to assume, truthfully or not, that the will was some kind of mistake.
If a considerable amount of money or property is being given away, the person left out of the will could reasonably conclude that the cost and time of a court challenge is worth it.
Like any legal matter, however, this should not be taken lightly. Will contests can foster conflict and strife within families who are already mourning a loved one. This can cause severe and irreversible damage to family relationships.
When Can a Will be Contested in Erie County, New York?
There are various reasons that a court in Erie County, New York might invalidate a will.
For example, a will which was not made under the testator's own volition and free will is not valid. This means that the testator must be acting voluntarily throughout the entire process of making his will. Therefore, a will made under duress (force, or threat of force) will not be given effect. In order to show duress, you generally need to first prove that the person named in the will was in a position of trust and power over the decedent, and that they are an "unnatural beneficiary" (someone who you would not normally expect to receive a gift under a will, usually because they are not related to, or close friends with, the testator). These facts, taken alone, are never enough to definitively prove that duress occurred. They are, however, usually enough to suggest that something strange is going on, and warrant further investigation.
Another fact that might invalidate a will is the mental incompetence of the testator. Wills must be a product of a person's volition. A will cannot be really voluntary unless the testator knows what they're doing. Accordingly, if the testator is mentally incompetent at the time he or she makes the will, the will cannot take effect. You should be aware, however, that this test applies at the time the will is made. So, if the testator is not mentally competent at the time of death, but was when the will was made, the will is valid.
There are many other facts that might make a will invalid, and thus serve as grounds to contest a will. If a will is successfully contested in Erie County, New York, and held to be invalid, this typically results in the property being distributed as if the decedent had died intestate (without a will). This means that it will usually go to the decedent's closest living relative.
Can a Erie County, New York Contested Will Attorney Help?
Contesting a will can be a perplexing, emotional, expensive, and time-consuming process. There is really no way around this. However, a knowledgeable Erie County, New York wills and estates attorney can minimize these problems, and make the process as painless as possible.