A last will and testament is a legal document in which a person provides instructions on who receives their assets such as money or property. Often, wills go through the probate process without a hitch because the person followed New Jersey estate laws. However, if you don’t think the deceased’s will represents his or her final wish, you can contest the will.
Contesting a will is a legal action to challenge the validity of the last will and testament. Whether you are the executor who is defending the will or a person who wishes to contest it, Fontanella, Benevento, Galluccio & Smith will assist you. We have more than 30 years of experience in contesting and defending against contest wills.
Procedures for Contesting a Will
According to New Jersey law, there must be grounds, or reasons, for contesting a will. These reasons include:
- Lack of Testamentary Capacity
- Fraud or Undue Influence
Lack of testamentary capacity is a legal term that means the deceased wasn’t of sound mind when the will was created. “Sound mind” simply requires that the individual:
- Understood the meaning of making a will
- Intended to make a will
- Understood what property was owned
- Was able to decide how to distribute property
- Knew or should have known who would normally be provided for in a will such as children or a spouse
Undue influence is another legal term that means that the deceased was somehow coerced into creating the will or making changes. With undue influence, there must be a person who manipulates the deceased, prior to death, to give all or most of the property to the manipulator.
This manipulator can be a person of trust such as a caretaker, child, new spouse, stranger (to the family) or sibling. Without undue influence, the individual making the will would not have left the assets to the People named in the will.
Going to Surrogate Court for a Will Contest
All contests to wills are made in Surrogate Court because that’s where they go through the probate process. Probate is the legal process where wills are proven valid. Once validated, the deceased’s assets are gathered, taxes and debts are paid and the assets are distributed to beneficiaries.
Only individuals with a financial interest in the estate can file a will contest. These individuals include beneficiaries named in the will or anyone who would have been included in the will (if the deceased would have died without a will).
Contesting a will must be done in a specific amount of time or you lose your rights to present evidence to invalidate the will. Fontanella, Benevento, Galluccio & Smith is ready to assist you.