Contesting a will is the process of challenging the validity of the document. The process is initiated by filing a petition with the court, but anyone considering this route should have a solid understanding of the effectiveness and practicality of this legal action. Will contests are often complex and time-consuming, and it can be challenging to prove some grounds for contest.

If you are concerned about the validity of a loved one’s last will and testament, it is recommended that you speak to an estate administration attorney with experience in New York will contests.

How Practical is Contesting a Will?

Deciding on the practicality of contesting a will is an important consideration before starting the process. A major factor in this deliberation is the existence of supporting evidence. If you plan to contest a will, you must have credible evidence to support your claim that the will is invalid.

The legal standard for proving a will invalid is relatively high. There are multiple grounds for contest, and you will need to prove one of the following:

  • The testator (the person who created the will) lacked the mental capacity to create the will.

  • The will was created under duress or undue influence.

  • The will is fraudulent or a forgery.

  • The will was not properly executed according to New York laws.

Do you have evidence to support any of these reasons for challenging a will? If not, you may want to consult with an attorney about the best way forward. Even challengers with evidence would benefit from obtaining legal advice. The Mark E. Seitelman Law Offices are uniquely positioned to help people who are facing estate administration issues like will contests.

Anyone planning on contesting a will may also want to consider the timing of their challenge. There are different timeframes depending on the reasons for contesting. Once the deadline for challenging the will has passed, it is unlikely the contest will be successful.

Cost can also be a considerable factor in many people’s decision to contest a will. This process will include numerous fees and costs, and the extended timeframe for estate administration can cause additional expenses to accumulate. If you contest a will and lose, you may also be required to pay the legal fees of the opposing party.

Is There a Statute of Limitations on Contesting a Will?

A statute of limitations is a timeframe or deadline by which a legal action must be taken. Contesting a will does have time limits that depend on the reason the will is being contested. So, how long do you have to contest a will in New York? Let’s discuss the various reasons and the statute of limitations for each one.

Lack of Capacity

If someone contests a will because they believe the testator lacked the capacity to make the will, the clock starts ticking for contesting when the will is submitted for the probate process. Anyone interested in contesting based on lack of capacity has two years from the time the will was admitted to probate.

Undue Influence

Undue influence occurs when the testator is influenced by someone when they are in a weakened mental state to divide property in a way that wasn’t their actual preference. When challenging on the grounds of undue influence, the statute of limitations is two years from entry of the will in probate or six years from the date the testator died.


A will can also be challenged if fraud or forgery is suspected. The timeframe is within two years from when the will was admitted or six years from the death of the testator.

Time limitations may be tolled or paused in some circumstances. If you have questions about your right to contest a will or if another family member is contesting a will, it is best to consult with a New York estate administration attorney for guidance.

Cost of Contesting a Will

Costs associated with probate and estate administration vary widely, and this is also true for will contests. The price will depend on the amount of time the challenge takes to resolve, the resources needed to prove the grounds for contesting the will, and whether any hurdles arise during the process. There are also court costs to consider when planning to contest a will.

Making the Decision to Contest a Loved One’s Will

Deciding to move forward with a will contest is not easy. Challenging a will often creates more stress and difficulty in an already challenging and emotional time. We understand that you have not made this decision lightly, and we are here to guide you through the process to make it as simple as possible.

Contact the Mark E. Seitelman Law Offices today to schedule your free consultation. Let us take some of the burden from you so you can focus on grieving your loved one and settling their estate as they intended.