A person who has a pecuniary interest in preventing a will from going to probate has the right to file a contest. In other words, someone who stands to gain if the will becomes invalidated can raise objections, but only before the probate process begins.
Because a will represents the express wishes of the deceased person, New Jersey courts generally give it precedence. However, if someone can show a good legal reason why the will is not valid, the court may set it aside. Here are some common reasons for a will contest.
1. Testamentary capacity
A common reason for a will contest is an assertion that the person making out the will did not have the mental capacity to know what he or she was doing at the time. According to the National Paralegal College, the legal standard for the capacity to make a will is much lower than for making a contract or similar legal matters. The person contesting the will therefore has to make a compelling case for diminished capacity for a successful contest.
2. Undue Influence
According to the New Jersey State Bar Association, one of the most frequently cited reasons for a will contest is an allegation of undue influence. This occurs when another party destroys the free agency of the person making out the will through moral, mental or physical exertion. The goal is to better the other person’s position, and the result is that the will no longer reflects the true wishes of the person making it out.
There are two types of fraud as it relates to the execution of a will. One type is similar to undue interest in that the person making the will does so on the basis of misrepresentation by someone else. The second type is more straightforward: The other party tricks the person into signing a document that he or she does not know is a will.
Other reasons for a will contest include an honest mistake in making out the will or a forged signature.