When planning how you want to distribute your estate after your death, you likely do not intend for squabbles or litigation to ensue after you depart. It can be important to consult with a seasoned attorney before executing a testamentary document so that its effect is as expected rather than contentious.

The laws regarding wills and trusts in New Jersey can be confusing and cumbersome at times. A New Jersey estate planning lawyer may be able to shed some light on their meaning so that you might feel comfortable with how you bequeath your assets.

Estate Planning with Peaceful Administration in Mind

One method through which a person can avoid problems after their passing is by preselecting a testamentary custodian while they are still living. As per New Jersey Revised Statutes §3B-12-31, a testator may appoint any of the following as their custodian:

  • Guardian of the person
  • Guardian of the estate
  • Guardian of the person and estate of a minor

Additionally, New Jersey courts retain the power to designate a substitute guardian upon petition or if it becomes necessary. A qualified New Jersey estate planning attorney may be able to provide more extensive information on the arrangement of testamentary guardians.

Litigation over Estates in New Jersey

When a holder of a will presents it to the court for probate, others may question whether the document is indeed a will, or if it is the most recent version of one. They might also allege fraud or improper influence on the testator.

A handwritten will might suffice as a testamentary document if it was properly signed and witnessed and contains the essential terms. Moreover, as per N.J.R.S. §3B:3-3, an incomplete document may be admitted to probate if it can be proven that the maker intended for it to be a will.

The standard of proof for demonstrating the validity of a will in New Jersey is by “clear and convincing evidence.” As such, those who wish to validate a document may be required to present extrinsic proof that the page was supposed to be a will. An estate planning lawyer in New Jersey may be an informative resource about the formalities associated with this process.

Voiding a Will or Trust

Loved ones who were familiar with a deceased person’s estate planning goals are sometimes surprised upon hearing the contents of a will. Interested parties in New Jersey may question the validity of a testamentary document by alleging fraud, duress, or undue influence in the creation of the will or trust.

Those who stand to benefit from the estate may have the standing to petition the court to hear arguments concerning the improper execution of a trust or will. Per N.J.R.S. §3B:31-23, a New Jersey court may declare that a trust or will is invalid if the deceased person was tricked or forced to provide unnatural instructions for the trust while they were alive and elderly.

Call a New Jersey Estate Planning Attorney Today

If you are ready to decide which of your assets should go to which loved one, it might be time to contact a New Jersey estate planning lawyer. A skilled attorney may be able to help you to choose an appropriate method for bestowing your property and ensure the documents you form are enforceable. Schedule a consultation today to learn more.