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Who Can Contest a Will in New Jersey?

Only people who have been damaged by a Will can contest a Will. The person who wants to contest the Will has to be someone who can demonstrate that harm resulted from the Will. Reasons for contesting include, a Child or spouse being disinherited from the Will, an Individual nominated as Executor that is a thief, and on and on. There is no bright line rule that says why a will can or cannot be probated. As with most court actions everything is dependent on the facts surrounding the matter.

For example, if a new Will from your Fathers gives a new car to your Nephew and you, and your sister is Cut out of the will instead of the car being divided between your sister and yourself, then you are not an Interested Party as you are in the same place in the New Will as the old, but your Sister is now an Interested Party as she has been hurt by the New Will.

Under the previous example your Sister as an Interested Party to be able to Contest the Will. But, if it turns out your sister told your father she never wanted to see him two weeks before the new will was drafted and your Nephew was acting as a live in caretaker to your father it would be highly unlikely your sister would win a will contest. So, just because someone is an interested party and has a right to contest a Will, it does not mean they will win.

How Do I Contest a Will in New Jersey?

To contest a will in New Jersey a person files a “Caveat” with the County Surrogate Court in which the will is being probated. “Probating a Will” is the process in which a Will is shown to be a valid legal document. This process will also invest powers into the person named as the Executor or Executrix named in the Will. (If there is not a will and the person died intestate, a person can apply to by the Administrator of the estate. Whether they are an Executor or Administrator they are also know as the “Personal Representative” of the estate.) In either case, people with an interest in the estate can object if they have a right.

New Jersey laws provide that a decedent’s Will cannot be probated any earlier than ten days after she or he passes away. Even before the Will is probated, a caveat can be filed with the Surrogate Court. If someone knows or is lead to believe their is fraud, a fake will, or that the executor is unlikely to be true to the position there may be call to file a caveat earlier than later. Who can file is based on who has an interest in the Estate.

If someone finds out later that a will has been filed with the court they can still file a caveat. We have had multiple people come forward with copies of wills they all claimed where valid in some matters. Topics of Undue Influence and Fraud are things we have dealt with in the past. We have even had to go to court to ask for permission to search for a lost will that was hidden in a wall.

Caveat’s are simple signed statement that can be as short as one two line. The purpose is for the caveat to state that someone contests the probate of a Will. The caveat does not need to even reason for the contest, just that the will is being contested. Once the caveat is filed, the Will cannot be probated by the Surrogate. The proponent of the Will (Normally the person such as the executor who submitted the will) must bring an action in the court to have the Will formally admitted to probate by the Court.

As mentioned earlier, Wills can also be contested after they have been probated by filing an action in court. The person contesting the will has four months after the will was probated if they live in New Jersey or six months if the contestant lives outside of New Jersey. Unlike when filing a caveat, some basis for contesting the Will must be provided to the court. These include topics like undue influence, fraud, lack of testamentary capacity, or errors by the executor. A hearing is normally held within 30 to 60 days of the time the action is filed. A hearing can become an ordeal for both sides. Many times families can turn ugly. We recommend mediation prior to going through the hearing and discovery process.

If you have any questions about the process, please feel free to reach out. We are always willing to discuss your options with 100% privacy guaranteed and no obligation to hire us.

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How Do I Contest a Will in New Jersey?

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