What is standing and how does it apply in will contests?

One of the most important questions for challenging a will, or for any civil litigation for that matter, is whether you possess standing. Standing is like the main gateway to pass through to start civil litigation. A New York court wants to know that you have a legitimate interest in contesting the will. If not, the court will not allow you to proceed.

As Findlaw describes, while laws regarding standing differ depending on the jurisdiction, typically a person who can contest a will is somebody who is already named on the will. Generally people who are named on a will but contest it feel that they are not receiving a proper portion of the inheritance or have problems with how certain assets will be distributed. Being named on a will can provide a huge advantage to receive standing.

On the other hand, some people may not have been named on the will, but that is not a disqualifier. A person can contest a will claiming that he or she should have been named on the will in the first place. In some cases the person contesting the will was named in a prior will, but was removed in a subsequent revision of the will. The excluded party may believe that they were removed unfairly or unintentionally and want to convince the court of their assertion.

The universe of people that have a chance of receiving standing is not very great. Outside of the decedent’s family members, such as children, stepchildren or spouses, people who are generally granted standing will include parties that may have legal claims against the decedent’s estate, such as creditors to whom the decedent owes money. There may also be parties that co-own property or assets along with the decedent and seek to gain full ownership.

This article is intended to educate readers on the subject of standing in will contests and should not be taken as legal advice.

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