Before people pass, they usually take the necessary steps to ensure that their wishes are followed and their estate functions the way they hoped. This is supposed to ease their stress of not knowing what will happen once they are gone. It also helps avoid stress among the family left behind so that they may focus on healing. Unfortunately, wills, trusts, and other testamentary instruments may be contested for their validity for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons an estate planning document may be contested include:
- Lack of capacity
- Undue influence
- A more recent will is found
Why would a will or trust be contested?
As stated above, there are many reasons a testamentary instrument can be contested. When beneficiaries believe a third party has unlawfully motivated the testator to favor one person over another, this could be considered undue influence. Proving undue influence can be quite difficult. A will can be contested if another, more recent will is found to exist. If a testamentary document is executed by a person who is believed to lack capacity, it can lead to contested cases. If there is evidence of alterations or forgery, the beneficiaries and those who believe they should have benefited from the will or trust can find themselves litigating the matter. Through a thorough investigation of communications between parties, medical and financial records, and a variety of other evidence, an effective attorney can question or support the validity of testamentary documents.
When should I contest a will?
You have options. You can contest a will before or after it is offered for probate. You should file a caveat with the Surrogate’s court in the county of residence of the decedent if you decide to contest a will prior to probate. This will question the validity of the document. The caveat needs to be addressed before being allowed to continue through the administration process. If you are contesting a will after probate, you may file a complaint with the Chancery Division of the Superior Court. Both sides will have the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses to support their position and the court will decide on the matter.
The planning and administration of an estate requires experienced legal guidance. If you need an effective attorney to assist you with matters of wills, trusts, and estates, or the taxes associated with them, contact Margaret M. Mahon, Esq. LLC today to schedule a consultation.