New York’s Appellate Division recently affirmed a decision of Nassau County Surrogate John Riordan which disinherited the daughter of a decedent who had brought a petition to contest her father’s will and for a construction of the residuary clause which left $221,000 to various charities. In the Matter of Bernstein 2007 NY Slip Op 04625, in addition to this charitable bequest, the sum of $20,000 was left to each of the decedent’s children. The will also contained an in terrorem clause which provided that anyone challenging the will would forfeit any interest they might otherwise have had in the decedent’s testamentary estate. By violating the in terrorem clause, petitioner lost any interest she might have had in her father’s estate. Therefore, the court went on to find that she did not have any standing to sue.
It should be noted that generally, courts will not hear a petition of a party who does not have an interest in the matter over which they are suing. Once, petitioner unsuccessfully challenged the will, she also lost any standing which she might have otherwise had to bring any legal proceeding in the matter.