Should You Contest a Family Members Will?

familyWhile some people are pleased with the way a decedent allocated assets to his or her beneficiaries, others may not be. However, just because a person was not given what he or she felt they were entitled to, does not necessarily provide them with the grounds necessary to challenge a decedent’s will. An individual must determine whether challenging a decedent’s will is both valid and will succeed in the eyes of the law because the process is timely and expensive. It is worth mentioning that a decedent has a right to allocate his or her assets or other meaningful possessions to those of their choosing.  This includes leaving assets or large sums of money to a charity or other institution. However, this does not preclude a beneficiary or heir from challenging the decedent’s will.

  Here are the legal challenges to a Will:

  • A court may invalidate a Will if there is evidence indicating that a decedent was deceived into altering his or her Will.
  • Undue influence. This involves instances where someone pressured a decedent into changing his or her Will in order to benefit them. Here, timing is crucial, especially if the changes occurred post-illness, such as dementia.
  • Lack of capacity. An individual must have the capacity to create or change his or her Will. If an individual lacks the capacity to do so, then a Will may be invalidated.
  • Improper execution. A will must be properly executed through the signing and attestation of the document. Specific guidelines, such as having witnesses present during the signing must be followed for the document to be valid. The failure to do so could result in the document being invalidated by the court.

Challenging a Will is both time-consuming and expensive. In addition, challenging a decedent’s Will often leads to divisions within a family. Therefore, it is important to discuss the situation with an experienced attorney who can help evaluate the matter carefully.

The experienced elder law and estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Hunziker, Jones, & Sweeney help seniors and their families handle all aspects of New Jersey estate planning, including probate and probate litigation. Our New Jersey estate planning lawyers can answer your questions about estate planning and assist you along the way. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact our New Jersey estate planning lawyers at (973) 256-0456.

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