Inheritance Lawyers Serving Clients and Their Family Members in New York, NY
Are you looking for a reputable and experienced New York, inheritance lawyer? Then you came to the right place. The death of a loved one and the settling of that person’s estate is an event that can cause heated disagreements within a family. Sometimes those fights leave lasting emotional wounds that take years to heal.
If you are involved in an estate litigation matter or you are a fiduciary who needs legal assistance to defend against any estate litigation claim such as a contested accounting, it is important that you contact our NYC estate lawyers to protect your interests.
In many cases, an inheritance dispute involves an heir or beneficiary unhappy with the part of the estate that they have received. This can lead to different estate disputes such as allegations over how the executor has managed the estate, a challenge over how the will was executed, and even accusations of improprieties on how the will was executed.
If you find yourself involved in an inheritance dispute, it is key to be represented by the experienced New York lawyers from the office of Ortiz & Ortiz. These estate disputes and will contests can be extraordinarily complex, involving difficult family dynamics.
Our lawyer, Norma E. Ortiz will review the facts of the disagreement and work closely with you in hopes of reaching the most satisfying possible resolution considering the issues involved in the dispute. To discuss the particulars of your case and better determine your legal options, please give our office a call today to set up a confidential evaluation.
What Are the Common Interested Parties for Inheritance Disagreements?
Only those who are interested parties have the legal right to pursue a dispute in the New York Surrogate’s Court, regardless of whether there are a number of other people that may have reasons to be upset by the provisions of a will.
Legally recognized interested parties are usually:
- Heirs: Typically, close family members such as children, the spouse, grandchildren, parents, and siblings.
- Beneficiaries: Anyone who is named in a will.
Additionally, interested parties also include claimants, fiduciaries, creditors, or anyone who would have inherited under a previous or later will. In a scenario where your mother passed away and left you a much smaller bequest than she left your brother, you could initiate estate litigation because you are an interested party.
On the other hand, you won’t have the standing to object to the will if you were only a friend of the decedent who was simply hoping to receive a testamentary gift.
To better understand your rights of inheritance, we encourage you to reach out to a lawyer at our NYC office. We can help to explain your individual rights following the passing of your loved one and offer legal guidance about how to pursue your goals from there.
What Are Common Types of Estate Litigation Matters?
When the conflict or dispute cannot be resolved between the interested parties, the matter may result in a lawsuit that is difficult both in terms of the law and in terms of complicated family matters. The following are common estate matters that our office handles:
There are different grounds upon which a will contest may be based under New York law. Lawyers and courts frequently deal with cases based on inheritance disputes from unhappy beneficiaries and heirs.
Improper Execution of a Will
This refers to a will that was not signed or witnessed correctly. If an interested party is upset by the amount of property received under a will, they could challenge it based on how it was executed.
The following legal statements must be followed under NY EPTL § 3-2.1:
- A will must be signed at the end by the testator (the person making the will).
- In case the testator is physically unable to sign the will the law allows another person to help the testator sign.
- The testator must be mentally sound when another person aids in the signing of the will.
- The will must be witnessed by two people (at least).
- During the execution ceremony, the testator must declare that the document signed is indeed his or her will.
If the court considers the will to be valid, the Surrogate’s Court judge will admit it to probate. Otherwise, in case the court believes there were problems associated with the execution it may decline to admit it to probate.
This may be the result sought by the person who initiated the inheritance dispute. In the second scenario, the decedent’s estate will be distributed according to New York’s laws of intestacy and they will be entitled to a significant share of the estate.
To ensure the will is not invalidated based on improper execution you can request that the witnesses execute affidavits recounting the circumstances surrounding the signing and execution of the will. To learn more, schedule a confidential and professional consultation with our New York wills lawyers.
Undue Influence in Wills
This is one of the most common grounds for claiming that a will should be invalid. As the name implies, undue influence refers to the fact that there was an undue influence at the time the testator wrote the will.
In other words, it is when another person selfishly manipulates the testator into executing a will that the testator wouldn’t have otherwise executed.
Lack of Testamentary Capacity
According to the New York law NY EPTL § 3-1.1, the testator must have testamentary capacity. This refers to the ability that a person has to understand and execute a will. The testator must be at least 18 years old and must be of sound mind and memory.
A common strategy by an unhappy beneficiary is to argue the lack of testamentary capacity to try to invalidate a will.
This contest is usually made to challenge that a provision in the trust was vague about how to distribute the decedent’s property upon death. With the legal advice of an attorney, a prospective beneficiary may be able to challenge the written language of a trust.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
This refers to challenging the actions of the fiduciary to remove them from their duties. Estate litigation in these cases could be due to financial mismanagement of estate assets, losses of the estate or beneficiaries, commitment of illegal acts such as embezzlement of estate funds, and others.
Claims Against the Estate
These are claims made by business associates of the decedent regarding a business asset owned by the decedent. They usually occur during interstate proceedings. They can also be claims from a creditor whose claim was denied by the trustee and seeking to obtain payment for the claim.
Surviving Spousal Litigation
This refers to circumstances where the decedent intentionally omitted their married partner from the will.
Under New York law, a decedent cannot completely disinherit a spouse to whom they were legally married at the time of their death. The validity of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements must be checked also.
Fiduciary Litigations and Removals
A fiduciary is an individual with the authority to act in the best interest of another person. In the case of trusts and wills fiduciaries include:
- The trustee or executor.
- Additionally, professionals are hired to help perform services for the estate such as accountants, attorneys, bankers, or business advisors. These are also considered fiduciaries.
When trustees and other fiduciaries mismanage equity assets, these assets can suffer a significant financial impact. That is, the amount of available property that can be distributed to beneficiaries could be reduced. Therefore, it may result in requests that a fiduciary is removed for cause and pays restitution to the beneficiaries or estate.
As you can see, legal battles can arise over a dispute on how fiduciaries have administered the estate and the consequences can be severe. Make sure you contact an estate planning attorney in New York at our law firm and let us know your case in detail.
What Are Common Inheritance Issues in New York?
The most common type of dispute arises from instances where a loved one passes on but did not leave a will of any kind. Unfortunately, in New York, an improperly filed will is just as invalid as a will that was never written in the first place. For this reason, anyone and everyone are encouraged to take the time to speak with an attorney about drafting their Last Will and Testament. If not for yourself, then do it for your children, your grandchildren, and your other potential heirs, so that they do not fight amongst themselves over who they think was most deserving of your biggest and brightest assets. If you would like help drafting your will, our legal team of associates and lawyers would be happy to assist you.
Other common reasons for there to be inheritance disagreements include:
- The Will is Out of Date: It is important for the testator to always keep their estate’s documents up to date to reflect new births, deaths, marriages, splits, and financial windfalls. If the will is grossly out of date and does not accurately reflect the current status of the family or finances, a beneficiary may have good reason to raise the issue with it.
- Concerns About the Declining Mental State of the Testator: It is important that the testator understand the will they have drawn up and signed. If it was written during a time of deteriorating mental capacity, a prospective beneficiary may have legitimate cause to claim that the will is invalid. If it can be shown that the will was written at a time of limited mental capacity, such as while the decedent was suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, then the court may not consider it legally valid.
- Concerns About Undue Influence: It is unfortunate but we are aware that sometimes bad-faith actors do prey upon the old and vulnerable. There are many cases where the children of a dearly departed parent believe that their elderly parent’s business associates, new romantic partners, or other parties had influence over the language of a will to suit their own interests. With the help of a lawyer, the children or other interested parties may be able to prove that these bad-faith actors had undue influence over the testator during the drafting of the will, making the document invalid.
Our law offices are constantly adding information to our website that may be of your interest, so we invite you to navigate our site. But please remember that the information provided here is only for general information purposes. In no case does it constitute an attorney-client relationship.
In order to serve you personally, we must know your specific situation. Contact our law offices to schedule a professional and 100% confidential consultation with our lawyers for legal advice in inheritance disputes. In this way, we can help you better by studying your situation thoroughly.
Contact the Law Firm of Ortiz & Ortiz to Schedule a Consultation
Property litigations, probate fights, and family strife are emotional situations for all parties involved. Situations like these bring out the worst in people by creating hostilities and animosities that can last for generations. We want to pursue a satisfactory outcome for all parties, so that hearts may be allowed to heal and no one walks away from the probate court process feeling disrespected and taken advantage of.
Regardless of the basis of the property dispute, negotiating a resolution is a complicated process that requires a detailed evidence review and the proper application of the corresponding law. We understand that you and your family are going through a difficult time and that emotions are running high. As your lawyers, we will attempt to provide compassionate legal representation in order to help make the legal aspects of this process easier for you in hopes that you may be allowed to grieve and heal in your own time, in your own way.
At our law offices, you will speak to an inheritance dispute attorney experienced in these types of estate matters. Our firm serves all five boroughs of New York. With over 30 years of experience, our team of lawyers and associates can help tend to your legal needs by making the process as painless as possible under these difficult circumstances.
Schedule a case evaluation with an attorney from our office today to make sure your interests are properly represented. You may use our website to book an online consultation or you may call our New York City law offices at 917-920-6437.