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Noncompliance with state law might lead to will contests

Choosing to go through litigation with a loved one's estate isn't an easy decision. For some people, the entire goal of the process is to ensure that the decedent's wishes are actually followed. One area that might come under scrutiny is the will.

In order to be legally valid, wills in New Jersey have to meet certain requirements. When they don't, the assets might be handled in accordance with the state's succession laws. This is an ordered list of who is able to receive the benefits of the estate according to their relationship with the decedent. Any one of the following points can be called into question:

First, only written wills are valid. No oral wills are recognized in this state. When the will is handwritten, it doesn't have to be signed by witnesses, but it must be fully written in the testator's handwriting. This leaves it open for questioning if the writing doesn't appear to meet that requirement.

If the will is typed, it must be signed by two witnesses. They don't have to sign at the same time, nor do they have to actually see the testator sign it. Instead, they can just attest to the fact that the testator acknowledged that they did sign the will.

Second, state law says that the testator must be of sound mind and be an adult. Proving the age at the time of the execution of the will is simple. It is more common that the "sound mind" requirement is questioned. In this case, the person challenging the will might make claims that due to dementia or other factors, the testator didn't know what the will was going to do.

Because these matters can rip families apart, it is a good idea to carefully consider the impacts of a challenge. Balancing these with the benefits of the challenge might help you to decide what to do.

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Law Offices of Nancy M. Rice
Representing clients in Ocean City and communities throughout New Jersey.

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