If you are considering objecting to a will, the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act provides you with the right to question the drafting attorney. But what should you ask?
The questions for each specific case will vary. However, in most cases you should ask questions about the attorney’s background and qualifications, the attorney’s prior interactions with the decedent and beneficiaries, the attorney’s prior legal representation of the decedent and beneficiaries, the existence of prior wills, the names of the decedent’s prior attorneys, who referred the decedent to the drafting attorney, who initiated the first contact for the services, where they met, who was present, what was discussed, the extent to which decedent discussed his family members and assets, what occurred during the will ceremony, the contents of the attorney’s notes and billing entries, whether the decedent was driven to the appointments, whether the decedent explained why he/she wanted to change his/her will, and any subsequent interactions between the decedent and the drafting attorney.
Sample List of Questions
When were you admitted to practiced law in New York?
How long have you done estate planning?
When did you first meet the decedent?
When did you first perform any legal services for the decedent?
When did you first meet the beneficiary/named executor?
Have you ever performed any legal services for the beneficiary before?
Did the decedent have a prior will/estate plan?
How was it different than the will you drafted for him?
Do you know the name of the prior drafting attorney?
Did someone refer the decedent to you? Who?
Who arranged for the first meeting between you and the decedent?
How did the decedent get to your office?
Who was present?
What did the decedent tell you?
What did you discuss with the decedent?
What did you discuss with the beneficiaries?
Did the decedent say anything about his family/assets?
Did the decedent ever tell you why he/she wanted to make the change to the will?
What is the basis for your conclusion that the decedent was of sound mind?
Did you prepare an engagement letter for the services?
How much did you charge for your legal services?
Who signed check?
Who wrote out the check?
Do you have any (other) invoices or billing records to reflect the services performed?
Did you take any notes?
Do you have any other notes other than these?
Did you send the decedent any letters/correspondence?
Did the decedent give you any writings/letters?
Did you have any other/subsequent interactions with the decedent?
Do you know the names of the decedent’s banks? Medical providers? Pharmacy? Cell phone number and provider?
Do you know if the decedent made any beneficiary changes to any of his/her non-probate assets during such and such time period?
Do you know if the decedent had any Powers of Attorney? Who was named as the agent? Do you know if the decedent had any joint accounts with the beneficiaries?