Contesting a will over duress

There are different reasons people decide to contest wills, which we have addressed on this blog. For example, some people may believe that a will is not valid or that an executor has not distributed assets appropriately. Our law firm also knows that some wills are contested over allegations that a decedent was under duress when creating their will. Whether you are fighting untrue allegations that a will is not valid for this reason or you believe that your loved one was under duress when working on their will, it is vital to stand firm for your rights.

First of all, it is important to recognize that duress can take different forms. For example, a person who is under duress when creating a will may be subjected to coercion, threats of violence, or restraint. If it can be proven that someone was under duress when crafting their estate plan, the will may be considered invalid, which could have a significant effect on beneficiaries. For example, if you believe that you or another beneficiary were supposed to receive something that was given to someone else as a result of duress, contesting the will could be the proper way to address this situation.

Will contests and other estate disputes can be incredibly tough for various reasons. Often, these cases carry emotional pain and can create additional difficulties, so it is important to be careful as you work through the will dispute process. If you visit our will contests section, you can read more info related to will disputes .

Tips to avoid probate and challenges as an executor of an estate

Being the executor of an estate is often a thankless job. The person whose estate you are handling, the testator, may have included a provision for financial compensation for your efforts. When you consider the stress, work and strain on relationships that can result from handling an estate, however, the amount may not seem like enough. Sometimes, being an executor results in no compensation whatsoever.

Regardless of whether or not you’re being paid, you probably want to do the best you can to uphold the last wishes of the testator. Sadly, other people, especially family members and heirs, may take issue with your actions.

Even when you follow an estate plan or will exactly, some people just won’t be happy with the outcome. When that happens, it’s possible for the estate or your position as executor, to end up challenged in probate court . There are certain things you can do to lessen the possibility of these kinds of challenges.

Get professional help and follow the will exactly

No matter how strange a provision in an estate plan or last will may seem, it is your job as executor to comply with the requests made, as long as they are legal. Sometimes, the language in an estate plan or last will can seem either confusing or unclear. When that happens, you should talk to someone with experience in interpreting last wills and estate plans.

Once you understand the requirements and expectations of the testator, you need to make sure that you do exactly what was asked of you. While you may think you have a creative solution that could make settling the estate better for everyone involved, you should stick to the instructions provided for you.

Document everything that you do

Did you pay the last power bill for a home before turning it off and prepping the home for sale? Make sure you have records of both the payment and the request to disconnect. Did you disburse funds to an heir or a charity named in the will? Document everything. Ideally, funds disbursed will be in check form, which allows for a direct paper trail and proof.

For non-monetary assets, consider having each heir sign a document confirming receipt of the assets. This way, if there is a challenge of any sort, you can prove that you have been handling the estate as requested.

Share the documentation with heirs and family members

If heirs aren’t already familiar with the terms of the will or estate plan, make copies and share it. Make sure everyone who has an expectation regarding the estate understands what they will actually receive. Doing that can prevent sudden shocks and accusations of wasting assets or refusing to provide an inheritance to certain heirs or family members.

What is intestacy and how could it affect my estate?

If you do not have an estate plan in place, you could have a wide range of questions, whether you are unable to decide between setting up a trust or will or have uncertainty involving another facet of the estate process. Moreover, you may be unsure about certain key terms, such as intestacy, which could be very important to understand, depending on your circumstances. It is essential to know how much of an impact estate plans (or the lack thereof) can affect families across all of New York and the importance of reviewing these issues carefully.

According to the New York State Unified Court System, intestacy involves the death of someone who did not have a last will and testament . Under these circumstances, assets are not divvied out according to an estate plan but are instead divided as dictated by the law. If you do not have an estate plan set up at the time of your passing and you are determined to have died intestate, you will not have any say in the way your property is divided.

The way in which your property is split up will depend on the details surrounding your family at the time of your death. For example, if you leave behind a marital partner but do not have any kids, your spouse will inherit all of your property. On the other hand, if you have children, your property will typically be distributed among them and your spouse. Please remember this does not serve as any substitute for legal help.

Grounds for contesting a will

While a will may seem like the final say if your loved one in New York has passed away, the truth is that there can be many mistakes made during the writing and developing that can render the agreement invalid. If you believe that this has happened to you, we at Joseph A. Ledgwidge can represent you as you contest the will.

There are many grounds that can be claimed when fighting for your rights. According to the New York City Bar, a will may not be used  if you can show that there was any sort of fraud involved during the creation of the document. This could mean that your loved one was lied to or in another way decieved. This is taken very seriouisly by the court, but you must also be able to prove that it happened.

While outright fraud may be an extreme example, there are other, less obvious factors that can cause your will to be invalid. Your loved one may have been a victim of undue influence in one or multiple parts of the document. He or she may have also not had the mental capacity to make wise decisions due to stress or other circumstances.

In some cases, the agreement cannot stand simply because the proper steps were not followed when it was created. This includes having witnesses observe the signing, something that some people tend to forget. For more information on how you can contest a will  in New York, please visit our web page.

Disinheriting your kids? Don’t leave room for disputes

Last month, iconic comedian Jerry Lewis passed away at the age of 91. As is often the case when it comes to high-profile celebrities and entertainers, his death made national headlines and many people were saddened by his passing. However, his six children may feel something other than sadness, as it was recently revealed that Lewis explicitly excluded them from being beneficiaries of his estate.

As noted in reports on the exclusion , there was a clause in Lewis’ will that he was intentionally leaving his six kids from his first marriage — and their descendants — no benefits. Instead, Lewis’ widow will inherit everything, and their adopted daughter is next in line. There are a few things New Yorkers can learn from this situation, should they be considering a similar decision.

  1. Make your intentions known clearly. Leaving someone out of the will can be interpreted as an oversight. If you want to ensure that a child or anyone else does not receive any assets or benefits, then you would be wise to say so in your will. 
  2. Ensure your will is valid and enforceable. If someone is able to successfully challenge a will based on claims of unconscionability, fraud or undue influence, then the terms established in that document can be subject to dismissal.
  3. Consider steps to keep the terms private. Finances and family dynamics are often intensely personal, and estate planning decisions like disinheritance can be embarrassing and shine an unwanted spotlight on the lives of the people involved. You can keep estate-related matters private by avoiding probate and establishing trusts.

Disinheriting someone is not a small decision in most cases, so it is crucial that you think carefully about this piece of your estate plan. If you are considering this, then you would be wise to discuss this option as well as others with your estate planning attorney. With legal guidance, you can ensure your wishes are documented, enforceable and carried out as you intend.

Working through a trust contest

On this blog, we have covered a number of topics related to will contests. However, it is important to point out that trust contests also arise and can create serious challenges. If you are dealing with a trust contest, you could be facing various issues. At Joseph A. Ledwidge, P.C., our law firm is very familiar with the emotional strain that trust contests can generate and we know how vital it is for people who live in Jamaica and other areas of New York to do what they can to resolve these matters efficiently, if possible.

Like will contests, trust contests can take place over accusations of undue influence or that the trustor, the person who created the trust and has passed away, was mentally incapacitated when they signed their name. Whether you are a beneficiary who wishes to challenge a trust or you are worried about a beneficiary’s decision to challenge, it is important to prepare yourself as much as possible.

There are other issues that may need to be taken into consideration when it comes to trust contests. For example, some trustors decide to put a no contest clause in place, which could dissuade beneficiaries from challenging the trust. Unfortunately, trust contests can be very devastating for families. If you are able to reduce tensions or avoid unnecessary conflicts, this could be helpful. If you browse over to our section devoted to contesting the will, you can read over even more information that is connected to trust contests .

Working through the will contest process properly

Unfortunately, there are times when contesting a will becomes necessary. We have covered different reasons for will contests on this blog, such as undue influence. At the same time, Joseph A. Ledwidge also understands that there may be instances where a will is contested on false grounds. Regardless of the nature of your circumstances, it is pivotal for you to work through the will contest process appropriately. For families in Jamaica and all other New York cities, the outcome of a will contest can have a major impact on beneficiaries and even relationships between loved ones, which underlines how pivotal it is to carefully approach this situation.

Whether you are a beneficiary or have been accused of failing to execute a will properly, you should be aware of the emotional repercussions that may come with these disagreements. If you are able to quell hard feelings and strong emotions in order to increase the chances of a favorable outcome, this can be highly beneficial. For many families, the consequences of a will dispute can generate repercussions that last for years to come. That said, we certainly understand that this is not a possibility in all cases.

Ultimately, it is vital to protect your rights, whether you are defending yourself against allegations that a will is invalid or believe that a will must be contested for one reason or another. If you visit the section of our site on contesting a will, you can peruse more material on undue influence  and other topics.