I often get calls from people who have just had a process server hand them a document called a "Citation" stating that a Last Will and Testament of a deceased relative will be offered for probate in the Surrogates Court on a specific date. The most common questions I'm asked are: Why was I served with this document? Do I have to appear in Court on that date? What if I don't appear? Can an attorney appear on my behalf?
If you have been served with a Citation, you are an heir of the deceased person whose will is being offered for probate. Heirs are those who, under New York State Law, would inherit the deceased person's property if they died intestate, or without a will. As an heir, you are a necessary party to the probate proceeding. In many instances, heirs sign consents to probate and voluntarily submit themselves to the jurisdiction of the Court. When such consents are not obtained, the Court obtains jurisdiction over the heir by the service upon them of a Citation. Generally, heirs provided for in the decedent's will sign such consents. However, if a person refuses to sign a consent because they were disinherited, for example, they must be served with a Citation.
If you are served with a Citation and don't appear, either in person or by an attorney, it's deemed that you consent to the will being admitted to probate. If you wish to object to the will being admitted to probate, it is necessary to appear in Court on the date set forth in the Citation. Heirs who wish to object generally retain an attorney to appear on their behalf.