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Can I contest a family member’s will?

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2024 | Estate Planning

Losing a loved one is a trying time. Sadness, loss and shock are common. Though, questions about contesting wills are not uncommon either. This is particularly true when complicated and heated family dynamics are involved. And, if you find yourself in a situation where you want to contest a New Jersey family member’s will, what can you do?

Understanding wills

First, let us clarify what a will entails. A will is a legal document that dictates how a person’s assets and property should be distributed after their passing, naming an executor and beneficiaries, etc. Though, they are not immutable.

Grounds for contesting

There are valid reasons for contesting a will. A common reason challenge is Lack of Testamentary Capacity. If the testator lacked mental capacity during the will’s creation, it can be invalidated. In other words, they did not have the ability to create the will they created.

Similarly, another challenge basis is Undue Influence. This occurs if someone coerced the testator into making decisions against their true wishes, which is often alleged along with a Lack of Testamentary Capacity

More arguments can be fraud, forgery or even improper execution. Most people are familiar with fraud or forgery, but improper execution refers to how the will was actually executed. The basis is that there was a failure to meet New Jersey’s specific requirements for executing a valid will.

Steps to contest

If you believe a family member’s will warrants contestation, you have options, but your want to contest the will cannot be based on nothing. It cannot be based on simply a feeling of unfairness. Instead, it must be based on a valid ground for contestation.

If you believe you do have such grounds, collect relevant evidence that supports your claim. And, within 10 days of receiving probate notice, file a formal notice expressing your intent to contest the will. Depending on circumstances, engage in mediation or proceed to litigation.


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