What if I Want to Contest a Will in New Jersey?
In some cases, a deceased person’s will should be questioned and investigated to make sure it is valid. Perhaps there is evidence that a more recent will exists, or maybe you have reason to believe he or she wasn’t of sound mind when the will was made. Fortunately, New Jersey law provides a window of time to prevent a will from entering probate until interested parties have had the opportunity to contest it.
Steps for Contesting a Will in New Jersey
There are many reasons you may have for contesting a will, but the process is largely the same regardless of your specific concerns. Here are the steps for contesting a will in New Jersey.
- First, you must determine the county where the last will and testament will be probated. Under New Jersey law, you generally probate a will in the county where the deceased person lived at the time he or she died. In some cases, however, it could also be a county where the deceased person owned property, or even a county where property owned by him or her was transferred.
- Next, you should file a “caveat” with the Surrogate Court in each county where you think the will could be probated. A caveat is a written statement that you are objecting to the eventual probate. In New Jersey, wills cannot enter probate until 10 days after death, so you have 10 days to block the probate process. (You can file caveats in as many counties as necessary to protect your interests.) If you file a caveat in the appropriate county, New Jersey law prohibits the court from entering the will into probate until a judge can hear the matter.
- Your third step is to attend the court hearing. A judge will hear testimony from you, as well as from the executor of the estate and/or the deceased person’s representatives, and then decide whether to allow the probate process to proceed. Witnesses to the will or other interested parties may also testify.
- If you do not file a caveat in time or if you file it in the wrong county, you can file a motion with the Superior Court to set probate aside. Under New Jersey law, if a will has entered the probate process, you can bypass the Surrogate Court and go directly to Superior Court within four months of probate or six months if you live out of state. After filing a motion with the Superior Court, you will be given a hearing date to appear before a judge to explain your position.
Talk to a New Jersey Probate Attorney
If you want to contest a will, a probate attorney can help you file the appropriate documents at the right times before and during the probate process. Contact Smith & Doran today for more information about contesting a will. We can also help if you are an executor of estate and another party has filed a will contest or caveat.