Wills that are admitted to probate in New Jersey are presumed to be valid. However, sometimes a person who was left out of a will, who did not receive the bequest he expected or was in a prior will but left out of the probated will wishes to challenge the will being probated. Experienced New Jersey will contest attorneys can help people who feel they were entitled to a bequest but did not get one.
They can also assist estate administrators who are facing questionable will contest claims.
Who Can Contest a Will in New Jersey?
In order to contest a will in New Jersey, the person challenging the will must have standing. That means that the challenger must already be a named beneficiary in the will.
People who would have received a bequest if the deceased had died without a will (“heirs at law”) also have standing to contest the will being probated.
Lastly, a person who was a beneficiary in a prior will, but who is not named in the will being probated, or who received a smaller bequest in the probated will, has standing to contest the will.
How Do You Contest a Will in New Jersey?
There are two ways of contesting wills in New Jersey. The first is by filing a “Caveat” in the county surrogate’s office where the will is to be probated (which is the county in which the deceased lived when she died). That will stop the Surrogate from appointing the executor to begin the probate process. It is the first step in contesting a will.
If the will has already been admitted to probate, the challenger can file an order to show cause in the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Probate Part in the county where the deceased lived at the time of death. All litigation involving wills is handled in the Chancery Division.
New Jersey residents can challenge wills up to four months after the executor’s date of appointment. Out of state residents have six months to file a challenge.
New Jersey Will Contest: Coercion or Duress
Undue influence and coercion/duress are often lumped together. But they are different things. Undue influence is used in a confidential relationship in which a person can improperly convince the testator to make or change a will to benefit that person. Coercion or duress refer to instances of a person threatening or abusing the testator to make or change a will to the benefit of that person.
The will contest is taking place after the death of the testator. Therefore, the testator is not available to testify about the threats or abuse he received from the person who allegedly coerced him. You will need an experienced New Jersey trust and estate litigation lawyer to interview family members and friends, review emails and correspondence and possibly medical records to either prove that the testator was coerced into changing his will or defend against such claims.
Experienced New Jersey Will Contest Lawyers
If you need experienced New Jersey will contest attorneys to contest a will or defend against claims of coercion or duress, call Schiller, Pittinger & Galvin, P. C., in our Scotch Plains office at 908-490-0444 on contact us online to set up a consultation.