If you wish to contest a will, there are three requirements you need to meet. You need to be within the required timescale, be eligible to do so and have grounds to do so.
Am I in time to contest a will?
As a New Jersey resident, you have four months to file a will contest. It is extended to six months if you live outside the state.
Am I eligible to contest a will?
Not everyone is entitled to contest a will. You need to be a beneficiary or a beneficiary of a previous version. Alternatively, if you are someone such as a spouse or child of the deceased who would have benefited if there were no will, you are eligible to contest it.
Do I have grounds to contest a will?
There are three grounds on which you can contest a will:
- Lack of testamentary capacity: The deceased had a mental illness that rendered them incapable of knowing what they were doing at the time.
- Undue influence: Another person pressured them to act in a certain way, such as signing a will in their favor.
- Errors when making the will: If a will was not properly signed or witnessed.
What happens when you contest a will?
If your challenge is successful, the court will declare the will invalid. They could revert to a previous version of the will, or if there is none, to state intestate laws.
Should I contest a will?
If you are in time to contest a will, entitled to do so and have valid grounds, there is one more question to ask yourself: “Should I?” Sometimes the consequences of a will challenge outweigh the benefits. While an attorney cannot make that decision for you, they can help you understand your chances of success, as well as the timescale and cost involved.