Estate & Trust Litigation

Contesting a Will, Trust or Other Testamentary Document

When seeking to contest a Will, Trust or other testamentary instrument, a client should promptly seek counsel to represent them. Under New Jersey law, a resident of this state, generally, only has FOUR (4) MONTHS from the date the Will is admitted to probate to institute litigation in order to challenge the validity of that document. Because of this limited time frame, when suspicious activity arises, such as a refusal by an executor to produce a copy of the decedent’s Will, individuals are encouraged to move quickly to protect their rights.

Wills, Trusts and other testamentary instruments are most commonly challenged on the basis of undue influence or a lack of testamentary intent. A lack of testamentary intent generally relates to whether an individual has sufficient capacity to execute their Will, namely, did they understand the nature of their actions and the effects which would result there from. Alternatively, an undue influence claim often arises where an individual has a diminished capacity and another individual unlawfully or improperly influences them. Undue influence is also implicated where an individual’s will is overborne by threat or intimidation. Both of these claims are factually dependent and therefore must be analyzed and developed based upon communications with the decedent, communications with family members, medical records, financial records and a variety of other evidence.

Often the evidence necessary to develop a client’s claim can be compromised or destroyed. In addition, individuals who cause an elderly person to execute a Will or other document contrary to their intent often do so for financial reasons and as such, typically seek to deplete the decedent’s estate as quickly as possible. Because of the foregoing, the attorneys at our firm utilize comprehensive discovery demands and aggressive motion practice to secure both the assets in dispute and the evidence necessary to establish our client’s case.

There are a variety of other Will contests which can arise such as after discovered Wills or codicils, forgery or alteration, the validity of a copy of a Will and the unlawful destruction of a Will. For more information concerning these or other issues, please feel free to arrange for an appointment with an attorney at our firm.

Protecting Your Rights During the Administration of an Estate

While there is often the need for litigation with respect to estate matters, sometimes, issues can be resolved in a less formal manner. Our attorneys have resolved numerous matters related to the administration of an estate without having to file a formal complaint. With their experience and knowledge you can be sure that your rights are being protected and that you will receive, as a beneficiary of an estate, the bequest or distribution intended.

Unfortunately, many individuals are not aware of their rights as a beneficiary and as such, receive less than they should under an individual’s Will or Trust. As a beneficiary, you are entitled to a copy of the decedent’s will and an accounting of the decedent’s assets. You can also object to the accounting and require the executor or administrator to provide proof of purported expenses. In addition, you can object to how certain fees and expenses are computed, such as the administrator’s fees or the fees charged by an attorney for the estate.

Principal Areas of Concentration

  • Will contests
  • Will and trust reformations, including special needs trusts
  • Accounting disputes involving trusts, wills, and powers of attorney
  • Contested estate administration
  • Disputes involving trusts, powers of attorney, living wills, and health care representatives
  • Disputes among co-fiduciaries
  • Breach-of-fiduciary duty claims
  • Insolvent estates
  • Elective share claims
  • Disinherited spouse and omitted spouse claims
  • Protection of beneficiary rights
  • Fraudulent transfer claims
  • Court-approval of special needs trusts

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