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Was your loved one coerced to change an estate plan?

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2024 | Estate Planning |

In New Jersey and all other states, a person must demonstrate testamentary capacity to execute a last will and testament. The phrase basically means that a person signing a will must be of sound mind at the time. The person must also understand the value of his or her estate, as well as the implications (what will happen as a result) of a will. If someone threatens, coerces or defrauds another individual into changing an estate plan, the court may determine that the will is invalid.

If you believe that your loved one would not have changed his or her will without coercion, you may want to challenge the validity of the document. This is a complex process that can be quite stressful and emotionally upsetting. To contest a will, you must be prepared to show evidence that supports your claim, that someone coerced your loved one into changing his or her estate plan.

Were you left out of an estate plan?

Perhaps you were surprised to discover that your name was not on the list of beneficiaries in your loved one’s will. Maybe you had discussed the issue with your loved one before he or she died and fully expected to inherit a portion of the estate. You have reason to believe that a specific individual or group of people coerced your loved one, either to remove your name or not to include it from the start.

It would be helpful to request a copy of your family member’s current will. You’ll also want to review any previous versions that existed prior to an update. This is one way to determine if your name was removed as a beneficiary. Keep in mind that there are rules regarding when you must file a motion to contest a will. In most cases, the sooner you initiate the process, the better.

Gather evidence before challenging a last will and testament

The court is unlikely to rule that a will is invalid if you cannot show concrete evidence that proves someone may have coerced your loved one. For example, if you have nothing to go on except a “hunch” because a particular relative or sibling has always “been out to get you,” this is not enough to prove that your loved one did not update the estate plan by his or her own free will.

Instead, you must convince the court that coercion took place with evidence that is irrefutable. It is helpful to seek guidance and support before challenging the validity of a will because this type of legal battle is often akin to swimming upstream. Experienced support is the key to success.


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