In this case the Surrogate’s Court considered whether the petitioners presented sufficient evidence of undue influence for the court to declare a will invalid. When J. Malone passed away, a petition to probate her will was filed. Several relatives, collectively the objectants, filed objections contesting the validity of the will on the grounds of lack of testamentary capacity, lack of due execution, and undue influence.
Under New York law, once a petition for probate is filed with the Surrogate’s Court, any interested party has the right to file an objection to probate. However, the objecting party must state the basis for his (or her) objection. Common grounds include lack of testamentary capacity, lack of due execution, undue influence, duress, and fraud. Merely stating the basis for the objection is not enough. The objectant must also provide evidence, either direct or inferential, of the existence of the basis for the objection.
In Malone, the petitioners moved for summary judgment dismissing all objections. The objectants only opposed summary dismissal to the objection related to undue influence. Thus, the Surrogate’s Court examined whether there was any evidence, direct or circumstantial, to support the objectants’ claim that J. Malone had been subjected to undue influence when she made her will.