SCPA 1404 Discovery in Surrogate’s Court: A Comprehensive Overview

The Surrogate’s Court is a specialized court in New York that handles matters relating to wills, estates, and trusts. SCPA 1404 pre-objection discovery is a crucial aspect of this court’s proceedings, as it enables parties involved in a probate or administration proceeding to access information that helps to determine the validity of a will or the appropriate distribution of assets. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of SCPA 1404 discovery, including its purpose, procedures, and limitations.

Purpose of SCPA 1404 Discovery

SCPA 1404 discovery is governed by the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA), specifically Section 1404. The main purpose of this discovery process is to enable interested parties to investigate and gather information before objecting to the probate of a will or the appointment of a fiduciary in an administration proceeding. This pre-objection discovery helps parties make informed decisions on whether to pursue an objection or not, ultimately promoting fairness and efficiency in the probate process.

Procedures for SCPA 1404 Discovery

  1. Examination of Witnesses: Section 1404 allows interested parties to examine the attesting witnesses to the will and the drafting attorney. This examination aims to determine the circumstances surrounding the execution of the will, including the decedent’s testamentary capacity and the absence of undue influence, duress, or fraud.
  2. Request for Documents: Parties can request the production of relevant documents that may include prior wills, drafts of the contested will, correspondence between the decedent and the drafting attorney, and any other material that could provide insight into the decedent’s intentions and mental state.
  3. Timeframe for Discovery: SCPA 1404 discovery must be conducted within a specified time. In most cases, parties have 20 days from the date of service of a citation to conduct the discovery process. However, the court may extend this period for good cause shown.

Limitations of SCPA 1404 Discovery

While SCPA 1404 discovery is an invaluable tool for parties involved in probate proceedings, it is not without limitations. The scope of discovery is confined to the execution of the will, the decedent’s testamentary capacity, and the presence or absence of undue influence, duress, or fraud. Additionally, SCPA 1404 discovery does not extend to third-party witnesses who may have relevant information but were not directly involved in the will’s execution or drafting process.


SCPA 1404 discovery is an essential aspect of Surrogate’s Court proceedings that helps parties obtain crucial information before deciding whether to contest a will or administration. By allowing examination of witnesses and access to pertinent documents, SCPA 1404 discovery promotes fairness and efficiency in the probate process. However, it is essential to understand the scope and limitations of this discovery tool to navigate the Surrogate’s Court effectively. As always, it is advisable to consult with an experienced attorney when engaging in SCPA 1404 discovery to ensure compliance with the rules and procedures.

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