Is a Will Contest a Good Idea?
According to a 2017 survey, fewer than half of respondents said that they had a written will. If a person dies without a will, state intestacy laws will likely determine how their assets are distributed. The same may be true if a will is challenged during probate and found to be invalid for any reason.
Why Would Someone Challenge a Will?
Generally speaking, a person challenges a will because he or she is not happy about the way it is structured. For instance, an individual may be angry because he or she was given a relatively small portion of a deceased parent’s estate. It’s also possible for someone to attempt to challenge a will after being written out of the document entirely.
What Are the Grounds for Contesting a Will?
It’s important to note that you can’t contest a will simply because you don’t like its terms. Instead, you must be able to prove that the document presented to the probate judge does not reflect the decedent’s true intent. This may be done by showing that the document was created or altered fraudulently.
You may also be able to successfully contest a will by showing that changes were made by a person who lacked the mental capacity to do so. Finally, a will may be declared invalid if it doesn’t conform to state law. In New Jersey, such a document must be signed by the testator as well as two witnesses. Alternatively, the testator can direct another person to sign the document assuming that it is also done in front of witnesses. An estate planning litigation lawyer may be able to represent your interests during the legal process.
Does a Will Have a No-Contest Clause?
A no-contest clause generally stipulates that anyone who challenges a will forfeits his or her claim to the decedent’s estate. Furthermore, if a challenge is unsuccessful, the losing party may be liable for the estate’s legal costs. It’s important to note that this type of clause is not always enforced in court. However, if it is enforced, you may lose a significant amount of money simply because you couldn’t keep your emotions in check.
Do You Have the Standing to Contest a Will?
Generally speaking, only those who were included in the document itself have grounds to contest its contents. In some cases, you may have the right to pursue legal action if you would stand to benefit under state intestacy laws if the document is invalidated. It may be a good idea to speak with an estate planning litigation lawyer to determine if you have the legal right to sue a deceased person’s estate.
Others May Be Hurt Because of Your Actions
Any money that an estate must spend to defend itself against a will challenge comes from the estate itself. This means that there will be less money to distribute to heirs after the case has been resolved. If your challenge is successful, you may still receive less than what you may otherwise be entitled to by law.
Ultimately, those who were in the original will may be upset that you wasted their inheritance on what may have been a frivolous claim. Even if your claim is legitimate, others in your family may be upset that you decided to put your own needs ahead of others who are grieving the loss of a loved one. If the deceased was a close friend, your actions may be seen as dishonoring that person’s memory in the pursuit of financial gain.
If you feel that pursuing a will challenge is the right thing to do, an estate planning litigation attorney from the Knee Law Firm may be able to help. You can reach one of our legal professionals in Hackensack by calling (201) 996-1200. You can also reach out by using the contact form on our website.