Will Contests & Estate Litigation
Do you suspect abuse?
It’s a sad fact of life that people often abuse their powers. But it’s comforting to know that if you are the victim of such abuse you have ways of minimizing the damage by hiring attorneys who understand what you are going through and who will protect you to the fullest extent possible.
Once a will is admitted to probate, under New Jersey law you only have 4 months to contest it. If you’re unsure if you should contest a will or a trust, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your family fighting over a will or a trust?
- Do you think that there might be some fraud, undue influence, or lack of mental capacity related to the making of the will?
- Are you a beneficiary who is dealing with an executor who might be abusing his or her powers?
- OR, are you an executor or beneficiary who is under fire from other beneficiaries who might be receiving more than that to which they are entitled?
If you can say “yes” to any of the above questions, then please use the contact form to the right or give us a call at 908-236-6457 and we would be happy to assist you.
The First Step is Never Litigation
At BMC, we want to do everything we can to keep your family together, and to ensure the least amount of fighting and expense as possible. It is for this reason that in any will contest, the first step we will employ is mediation of your probate disputes to keep your costs down and your mental anguish at a minimum.
But if that fails, we are fully prepared to do everything we can to make sure your rights are protected.
How to Contest a Will
If litigation is necessary, then there are various ways to contest the will or trust. It is critical that you hire a highly experienced New Jersey estate litigation lawyer to ensure the intent of the decedent is upheld.
There are four common grounds for contesting a will:
Mental Incompetence. If the testator (i.e., the one who left the will) is proven to have been incompetent, e.g., senile, delusional, or of unsound mind, at the time the will was written or signed then there is a viable claim for Mental Incompetence. In short, the testator has to understand what we was doing, what he actually owns and is leaving behind, in order for the will to be valid. If you are challenging the will, it’s your burden to prove mental incompetence.
Fraud or Undue Influence. If the testator is coerced to execute a will then the will can be contested on the grounds of fraud or undue influence
Improper Execution. There is a process or procedure that must be followed when executing a will. Specifically, a will must be properly signed by the testator and properly witnessed by at least two people who also sign the document. If the signatures do not meet the legal standard, or if the will itself is ambiguous, then you can contest the will based upon Improper Execution.
Contesting Unlawful Lifetime Transfers. If you suspect that there might have been unlawful activities before the testator’s death, then you should hire an attorney to review any unlawful lifetime transfers. Significant transfers of property or money within three years of a testator’s death could be suspect and must be reviewed. The most common method of unlawful lifetime transfers relate to powers of attorney and joint accounts. A joint account is not included in the probate estate and does not pass under the will. Many elderly clients rely on family members to help them pay their bills as they get older, and sometimes the family members deplete the estate accounts immediately before the testator’s death. If you suspect that something like this has occurred, then contact us to protect your rights under the will.
If you have a will contest or suspect there was any abuse before or after the testator’s death, OR if you are an executor forced to defend any claims, please contact us using the form to the right,or call us at 908-236-6457, or email Alec R. Borenstein, Esq., at email@example.com.