At Sweeney, Reich & Bolz LLP, our attorneys know that each will contest is different and our lawyers use their extensive litigation knowledge and experience to sort through the legal issues involved to obtain the most favorable outcome. Our attorneys know that will contests are often contentious and emotionally charged, and we strive to work diligently on your behalf.
The law firm of Sweeney, Reich & Bolz LLP is often retained by other law firms to serve as trial counsel in contested will proceedings. From discovery to motion practice through trial, our lawyers are prepared to fight for our clients. At Sweeney, Reich & Bolz LLP, we represent both contestants (persons contesting a will) and proponents (persons attempting to have a will admitted to probate) with the highest level of professionalism and experience.
Our attorneys are known as aggressive trial attorneys who have a strong record of success on behalf of clients in complex estate litigation. Over the past two decades, our firm has handled all aspects of will contests, including jury trials, appellate briefs and appellate arguments. While each will contest is unique, the law permits a will to be contested in certain circumstances, all of which the lawyers at Sweeney, Reich & Bolz LLP are experienced and capable of litigating. There are various issues that arise when a will is presented for probate.
If you have been served with a probate citation in Surrogate’s Court, you have been put on notice that someone is attempting to have a testator’s will admitted to probate. The citation will provide you with important information, including who the proponent of the will is and when the return date is for you to appear in Surrogate’s Court if you wish to contest the will. It is important that you appear on the return date in Surrogate’s Court. Failure to appear may result in forfeiting your right to contest the will.
At Sweeney, Reich & Bolz LLP, our attorneys are skilled at navigating the Surrogate’s Court and are experienced in the procedures of the Court. Our attorneys can request the examination of the attesting witnesses and the draftsperson of the will on your behalf and assist in the filing of objections to the Last Will and Testament if warranted. On the return date of the citation, our attorneys will appear at Surrogate’s Court and represent your interests.
In New York State, a person’s will is valid only if the document is duly executed. The requirements of due execution are set forth by statute.
The law requires that the document be executed as follows: the testator (the person who makes and signs the will) must sign the document at the end, the signature must be affixed to the will in the presence of two attesting witnesses or the testator must acknowledge his/her signature to each of the attesting witnesses — specifically, that the signature was affixed or acknowledged at his/her direction. The testator may sign the will in the presence of the witnesses, or may acknowledge the signature to each attesting witness separately.
The testator must, at some time during the execution ceremony, declare to each of the attesting witnesses that the document that he/she has signed is his/her last will and testament. The two attesting witnesses must both attest that the testator’s signature was affixed or acknowledged in their presence and at the request of the testator, and must affix their names and addresses at the end of the will within thirty days.
The attorneys at Sweeney, Reich & Bolz LLP are capable trial attorneys who will analyze the document purported to be the testator’s will and, through discovery, can evaluate whether it was duly executed pursuant to the law of the State of New York. Our attorneys are dedicated to protecting our clients’ rights under the law.
Lack of Mental Capacity
In order for a testator to create a Last Will and Testament, the law requires that they possess the mental capacity to understand the consequences of the document he/she is executing. Litigation involving the issue of testamentary capacity usually involves testators who lack the mental capacity to execute a will due to senility, dementia, insanity, Alzheimer’s disease or other unsoundness of mind.
At Sweeney, Reich & Bolz LLP, our attorneys work with excellent, independent medical experts who examine medical records of the decedent to determine whether they possessed the required mental capacity to execute a will. If it is determined that the testator may have lacked the mental capacity to create a will, our lawyers have an impressive record in resolving these cases with favorable results for the client.
Undue influence occurs when a person convinces the testator to dispose of an estate, either in whole or in part, contrary to the testator’s own free will. Undue influence may occur where an individual who has a confidential relationship with the testator is in a position of power and takes advantage of the testator. Examples of relationships that are considered by the State of New York to be confidential in nature include:
Undue influence may also be exerted by a family member, friend or neighbor.
Undue influence occurs where the testator is coerced to carry out the wishes of another instead of the wishes of the testator. The party exerting undue influence often preys on a testator who is too weak or unable to resist. Undue influence may be a slow process where the weakened testator’s emotions, fears and weaknesses are manipulated or where a third party isolates the testator and takes advantage of the testator’s weakened condition.
Our attorneys understand that undue influence is often done covertly and are skilled at interpreting the facts and circumstances of each situation through extensive discovery to prove that a will was executed as a result of the undue influence.
A Last Will and Testament is considered fraudulent when the testator relies upon false or misleading statements of another that induce the testator to make a will that the testator would not have otherwise made. Fraud is an independent ground for the denial of probate and consists of misrepresentations that alienate the testator from the natural objects of his/her bounty.
The lawyers at Sweeney, Reich & Bolz LLP, through their thorough and aggressive discovery techniques, analyze the facts and circumstances surrounding the execution of the will and have been successful having fraudulent wills denied probate.
The Existence of Another Will
In circumstances where a later, duly executed, will is found, the older will may be invalidated.
At Sweeney, Reich & Bolz LLP, we use experienced and qualified investigators to determine whether the testator executed a later will. In instances where a more recent will is located, our attorneys are equipped to take the necessary legal steps to invalidate the prior will and have the current document admitted to probate.
The attorneys at Sweeney, Reich & Bolz LLP candidly advise their clients of their best legal course of action and the possibility of success when contesting a will. During the initial intake meeting, as a client of Sweeney, Reich & Bolz LLP, you will advised of your rights, what the limitations are that pertain to will contests, and what we believe will be the most successful legal strategy for your particular circumstances. At Sweeney, Reich & Bolz LLP, we represent both clients seeking to contest wills as well as those clients who are defending the validity of a will. Whether we represent you as a contestant or proponent of a Last Will and Testament, the attorneys at Sweeney, Reich & Bolz LLP are determined to vigorously advocate on your behalf. Call 718-459-9000 or contact us to schedule a consultation to learn more about will contests.