Will Contests

Many circumstances can lead a beneficiary under a deceased person's Last Will and Testament to dispute a Will or file what is commonly referred to as a "Will Contest." Some of these circumstances deal with the actual execution of the Will and whether the Will is in the proper format to be submitted to the County Surrogate for Probate. Some of these circumstances include whether the writing actually was intended to be a Will; whether the deceased person, referred to as the testator, actually signed the Will; and whether the Will was properly witnessed under the laws of New Jersey.

Wills also may be contested for other reasons, such as whether the testator had the requisite testamentary capacity at the time he or she signed the Will, or whether a beneficiary under the Will exercised "undue influence" over the testator. In other words, did a beneficiary coerce the testator or otherwise eliminate the testator's ability to dispose of his or her property in the way the testator wishes and instead the way the beneficiary wishes? Whether the terms of the Will were the result of undue influence depends upon the relationship of the parties and other circumstances specific to the execution of the Last Will and Testament involved. Other bases for filing Will Contests also exist.

In New Jersey, the County Surrogate may not enter a judgment of probate of a Last Will and Testament until 10 days after the testator's death. A person who would be harmed by the probate of the Will may file a Caveat with the Surrogate before the Surrogate enters the probate judgment. Filing this Caveat may lead to Will Contest litigation. Another mechanism for contesting a Will is to file a Verified Complaint with an Order to Show Cause in the Chancery Division of the New Jersey Superior Court.

If you find that you are or may be party to a potential Will contest, call me at my Medford, New Jersey, office at 856-283-0800 for a free initial telephone consultation, or send me an email with the specifics about your situation.