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Court Decides Case with Multiple Wills

A deceased man from Niagara County made five wills all of which have some beneficiaries who are different from Will to Will. The wills are dated March 2, 1993, July 15, 1992, April 24, 1992, March 15, 1989 and September 24, 1987. Two of these Wills have currently been offered for probate. The first Will offered for validation was the third most recently dated Will of April 24, 1992. A decree granting temporary letters of administration was issued on July 28, 1995, appointing the Niagara County Treasurer and Public Administrator, as Temporary Administrator of the state. The Public Administrator was charged with gathering, preserving and protecting the assets and to pay the deceased man’s debts and obligations to prevent the estate from being wasted. Thereafter, on October 25, 1995, the Public Administrator offered the third most recent Will dated April 24, 1992, for validation. The Public Administrator was required to notify everyone named in the two more recent wills as well as the deceased man’s heirs and those listed in the April 24, 1992 will. The return date for the citation on the petition was December 21, 1995. Thereafter, the deceased man’s most recent will dated March 2, 1993, was offered for validation on November 29, 1995. In addition, objections to the validation of the will dated April 24, 1992, were filed on December 6th, 1995. The validation petition filed November 29, 1995, was technically defective and was revised and re-filed on January 8, 1996. A citation has not yet been issued for the said petition given the intervening proceedings. None of the other three wills on file with the court have been offered for validation, nor have any other wills not on file with the Court been offered for validation.

A New York Probate Lawyer said that in a proceeding for the validation of a Will, process must be issued to any person designated as beneficiary, executor, trustee or guardian in any other Will of the same person who made the will filed in the Surrogate’s Court of the County in which the proposed Will is filed, whose rights or interests are adversely affected by the instrument offered for validation.

The attorneys representing the various parties to the properties have suggested that the application of the section is capable of several different results, each of which would require the service of process on different parties given the five Wills of the deceased which are on file with the Court. The narrowest suggested application would require service only upon those interested parties in the Will being offered for validation and the next most recent Will. The broadest suggested application would require service of process upon all interested parties in all five Wills on file with the Court. Based upon the facts set forth above, the Court believes that neither proposed application of the section is correct.

Given that a petition for the validation of the Will dated April 24, 1992, has already been filed, it is clear that the second petition for the validation of the Will dated March 2, 1993, adversely affects the rights and interests of those beneficiaries and other interested parties. A Staten Island Probate Lawyer said that the petitioner has requested that the April 24, 1992 Will be admitted for validation, and the petition to validate the March 2, 1993 Will clearly adversely affects the petitioner and the interested parties of the April 24, 1992 Will. To hold otherwise would be inconsistent with the apparent intent to ensure that these parties have the standing to object to the validation of the Will being so offered. As it is clear that the issue of the validity of the most recent Will must be established first, before that issue can be addressed with respect to any other later Wills, to deny these interested parties the standing to object would be inconsistent with the apparent intent of to ensure that these parties have the standing to object to the validation of the Will being so offered.

Having stated, the court is not unaware that a similar argument could be raised with the beneficiaries and interested parties in all five Wills. Bronx Probate Lawyers said the court believes, however, that the intent is to ensure that the resolution of any issues concerning the validity of a proposed will be properly represented on both sides. Where there are clearly existing adverse parties, the interests of those differing beneficiaries and interested parties in the earlier Wills will be protected by the actions of the current persons to object. If the current persons who object are successful in preventing the validation of the most recent Will, then, before the next most recent Will may be admitted for validation, additional parties would necessarily be required to be served. In addition, any of the interested parties as set forth in these earlier Wills could petition for the validation of such Will if they wish to be joined as parties to the current proceedings.

Accordingly, the petitioner for the validation of the March 2, 1993 Will is directed to serve all beneficiaries and interested parties in the Wills dated March 2, 1993, July 15th, 1992, and April 24, 1992.

Legal issues arise when we are not aware of fact that we already violated the law. Wills are made with good intentions. Implementing such, however, is another thing. Having your name in someone else’s will can either benefit you or get you into a lawsuit. If you or anyone you know get into this kind of situation, call Stephen Bilkis and Associates.

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