When Should You Contest a Will in New Jersey?

New Jersey Will Contest
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When Should You Contest a Will in New Jersey?

Most family members dread the idea of a will contest. This is a situation in which one or more beneficiaries, or persons who believe they should be beneficiaries, challenge the distribution of assets under a will. Emotions, legal mechanics and reputations all come into play when a will is contested.

(Here is an article on a famous will contest in New Jersey, the Perelman will case and a copy of the decision).

It’s important to note that will contests can often be avoided by carefully and thoughtfully drafting a detailed will and comprehensive estate plan. An experienced attorney can help create a will that is free of ambiguities, and thus, less likely to lead to be contested. Sloppy drafting, on the other hand, is almost certain to result in confusion and disputes.

No one wants to be involved in a will contest unnecessarily. However, there are certain circumstances under which it may be necessary to consult a lawyer, such as if you believe a will, or the execution of a will, does not properly reflect the last wishes of a loved one.

Common reasons for will contests include the following:

  • The entire estate is left to a person who only knew the decedent for a short period of time before he or she died.
  • Direct descendants (e.g., children) are not mentioned in the will at all.
  • A spouse is excluded in favor of a paramour.
  • A will was substantially and materially altered shortly before the decedent passed.
  • The decedent did not have full mental facility or lucidity at the time the will was executed.
  • Fraud is suspected because the signature on the will is unrecognizable or not properly witnessed.
  • Duress is suspected because the decedent is believed to have executed the will under pressure.

While many family members who lose a loved one tend to shy away from contesting a will, in some cases it is absolutely necessary. In fact, there are times when no amount of cooperation can settle a heated beneficiary dispute. There is nothing wrong with consulting an attorney if you believe a will contest is appropriate given the circumstances. A professional can help you understand whether valid grounds exist on which to contest the will and represents you in court if you decide to proceed with legal action. It’s always better to understand your rights and your loved one’s intentions rather that spend years wondering whether you should have contested a will you suspected to be fraudulent.

For guidance and support with a will contest or dispute, or to learn more about other estate planning related matters in Union, Hunterdon County or elsewhere in New Jersey, do not hesitate to contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., a partner with the firm, at alec@bmcestateplanning.com or call 908-236-6457 today.

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