Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, August 13, 2020

New York Surrogate’s Court Reviews Will Contest Basics In Granting Summary Judgment Against Will Challenger

SjIn Matter of Tsinopoulos, the Rockland County Surrogate's Court showed that "it is possible to defeat a New York will contest on summary judgment."

Pat Tsinopoulos passed away in 2015 and was survived by a son and a daughter. Her daughter was the petitioner in the case while her son was the objectant. 

Petitioner found a will in a chest in decedent's bedroom about a month after decedent's death. The Will was "a two-page pre-printed form with blanks for the testator to fill in." The Will leaves a majority of the estate to the petitioner, aside form an $11,000 bequest to Objectant. 

After Petitioner offered the will for probate, Objectant challenged the will arguing " (i) the failure to adhere to proper execution formalities of EPTL 3-2.1 (ii) lack of testamentary capacity and (iii) fraud and undue influence." After discovery, Petitioner moved for summary judgment. Objectant opposed the motion, asserting that there was a genuine issue of material fact that remained unsolved.

Petitioner denied playing any part in preparing the Will or writing anything on the will. Petitioner also argued that she provided the original document to her attorney without altering it. 

In the opinion, the court provided a detailed overview of the analysis for summary judgment in a New York will contest, which is as follows:

First, the proponent of the will must introduce facts showing both due execution and the competency of the testator.

To defeat the motion, the Objectant must either (1) identify material facts that contradict the showing on due execution or competence; or (2) identify material facts that tend to show undue influence, fraud and/or coercion.

The allegations must not be mere conclusions, but should be specific and detailed.

The New York Surrogate Court granted Petitioner's motion for summary judgment, holding that the will was duly executed and that the decedent "possessed the basic requisite testamentary capacity. . ." 

See, New York Surrogate’s Court Reviews Will Contest Basics In Granting Summary Judgment Against Will Challenger, Probate Stars, July 29, 2020.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/2020/08/new-york-surrogates-court-reviews-will-contest-basics-in-granting-summary-judgment-against-will-chal.html

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