What Is the Dead Man’s Statute?

The Importance of Writing A Thorough Will

One of the first steps in estate planning is to write a thorough will. Without a will, you may not be able to direct what happens to your estate after you pass. Sometimes the validity of a will is questioned through a will contest by parties claiming to be rightfully entitled to certain assets in the estate.

What is the Dead Man’s Statute?

Sometimes mistakenly referred to as the “deadman statute,” New York’s “Dead Man’s Statute”, CPLR §4519, excludes testimony regarding any conversations between the deceased and an individual challenging the estate.

The statute is designed to protect the estate and the surviving heirs from unverified claims concerning verbal statements the deceased made prior to death.

According to the New York dead man’s statute, there are exceptions to the barring of testimony by interested parties in estate litigation cases:

  • An interested party may attest to conversations with the deceased if they are asked about them during the discovery process.
  • If an estate fails to object to a will challenge in a timely matter, thereby losing its right to use the Dead Man’s Statute defense to object.

The interested party, under New York estate laws, must present evidence proving they have a legitimate claim to assets held in the estate. This evidence cannot include verbal statements that the deceased may or may not have said prior to death. However, if the alleged verbal statements took place in front of a third party without interest or claim to the estate, they may be called upon to testify to the details of the conversation.

Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC Trusts & Estates Attorneys specialize in the representation of executors and beneficiaries of large estates exceeding $500,000. Our extensive knowledge and experience with New York Estates, Powers & Trusts Law (EPTL), Surrogate Court Procedures Act (SCPA), and other estate laws and case precedent provides our clients with the strong representation these matters require. Contact us here or call us at (914) 228-7448.

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