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During an estate's administration, why might I contest a will?

Most New Jersey residents who have created wills believe that their testamentary documents will be honored after their deaths. In almost all cases this will be true and a person's documented final wishes will be carried out. However, some circumstances can arise when it is appropriate for another party to call into question the validity of a decedent's will.

One reason that a will may be challenged is if the decedent lacked the capacity to execute such a will. Many people make their wills later in life and during periods of declining health. Some conditions impair a person's cognitive functions and make it very difficult to plan and execute legal documents. If a decedent's will is dated during a period of known incapacity it is possible that it is not a valid will.

Another reason that a will can be challenged is if it was created under threat or coercion. From threats of violence to alienation, some unscrupulous individuals bully others into leaving them wealth through their wills when the decedents would not have otherwise done so. A will that lacks intent from force, illegality or coercion is generally not valid.

Finally, a will can be challenged if it does not meet necessary technical requirements. Different states require different numbers of witnesses and other documentary necessities in order for wills to be valid. When those elements are lacking a will may face scrutiny by those who disagree with its terms.

A will contest during a decedent's estate administration is generally challenging, but such an effort can be successful when it is brought for good cause. Getting the right information about options in the estate planning area of law can help New Jersey residents better understand how challenging a will works.

Source: FindLaw, "Reasons to Challenge a Will," Accessed Nov. 17, 2014

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