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Research Guide on Wills: With Special Emphasis on New York: NY CASES

This Research guide will discuss the laws of wills and decedent's estates in New York and also contain a general discussion on the laws of wills and the Uniform Probate Code.


 West's New York Digest. KFN5057 .A2  This digest contains New York and Federal case law from 1978.  Volume 44A has a section entitled "Wills," however you may want to look in the descriptive word index under "Gifts," "Descent and Distribution," "Perpetuities," "Taxation" and "Executors and Administrators."  For earlier cases, consult earlier versions of the digest.

Westlaw:  Search New York Cases (NY-CS) or New York Estate Planning & Probate Cases (NYEPP-CS).  You can also search all Federal and New York cases on (NY-CS-ALL).  These databases can be found under the Estate Practitioner Tab, under State Primary Sources.


Limit to Jurisdiction:  Right next to the search box, click on the small downward arrow to reveal a large box, entitled “Jurisdiction.”  Choose the jurisdiction to be NY, put a check in the box, and you can include or exclude Federal materials as you prefer.  Make sure you click on submit.

Limit your Search to Cases or Court:  After you limit your search by jurisdiction, you can then do a general search with your term, and later limit it to just cases OR you can click on cases that appears in the large blue box.  If you choose to click on Cases (in the big blue box),  you can then choose NY.  A list of courts, both Federal and State in NY come up which will let you limit it by the court.

Limit your Search by Topic:  After you limit your search by Jurisdiction, if you click on Cases in the big blue box, you can then scroll down, and Limit your Search by Topic.  You can click on “Estate Planning” as one of your choices.

Key Numbers: WestlawNext does allow you to search by Key Number.  After you limit your search by jurisdiction, as stated above, you can click on Tools, and then West Key Number System.  Wills is number 409.  You can click on it to see an outline of how the cases are organized.  For example, the cases are organized as follows: “Nature and Extent of Testamentary Power,” “Testamentary Capacity,” Contracts to  Devise or Bequeath,”  “Requisites and Validity,” “Probate or Contest of Will,” “Construction” and “Rights and Liabilities of Devisees and Legatees.”  You should click on the “+” sign to open up and see more subdivisions of each category of cases. 

Lexis Search New York Estate - Cases (NYCTS; Estate - Cases - All States (STOMNI); Estate Cases, Federal(Cases); and Estate Cases, Federal and State (MEGA).  The path to find all these databases is Legal>Area of Law-by Topic>Estates, Gifts & Trusts>Find Estate Cases.

Lexis Advance:

You can do a general search by entering your terms in the box and limit your search after by applying filters, or you can limit your search from the beginning.

To limit your search to Cases:  Click on “All Content Types” which appears just under the search box. From here you can put a check box in “Cases” and click”OK” which appears in the lower right hand corner.

To limit by Jursidiction:  Click on the box in the middle under the big search box, which is labeled:  “All Jurisdictions.”  Then put a check box in NY and click “OK” which appears in the lower right hand corner.

To limit your Search by Topic:  Click on “All Practice Areas,” and you will see Topics.  Put a check box in “Estate, Gift and Trust Law” and then click “OK.”  

After running your Search, you can sort cases by Relevance, which includes listing the courts from highest to lowest or vice versa.