While your will is a legal certification of your last wishes, your children, spouse, or anyone mentioned in your will may contest it for a variety of reasons, including issues with its execution, doubts that you had a "sound mind" when you created it, and more, which could alter your intentions entirely.
A will contest after you pass away can severely alter who gets what and why, but it's possible to avoid a will contest if you take the proper precautions before and after creating your will through the help of an experienced estate planning attorney in New Jersey.
What is a will?
For those unfamiliar with the official definition, a last will and testament is a declaration of your last wishes to be carried out after you pass away.
When you create your will, you name beneficiaries to whom you wish to leave your assets after you pass. These assets can include investment accounts, your house, your car, and many other assets you own.
For your will to be deemed legally valid, it must be legally certified by your local probate court after you pass away. This certification process varies from state to state, but it emphasizes that if you create a will, you should do so correctly, in a way that ensures that a will contest will not succeed.
Keep in mind that there several mistakes you need to avoid during New Jersey probate. If you live in New Jersey and want to make sure your will isn't contested when you pass away, use these three tips:
#1 – Properly Draft and Sign Your Will
This is the most important thing you can do to ensure your will is not contested. You must sign your will in front of at least two witnesses and have them sign as well. In addition, your Will should be notarized by a public notary. It's also essential that both people who witness your will are legally able to do so, meaning they are not minors and not mentally incapacitated.
#2 – Consult with Your Beneficiaries During Lifetime
You should consult with your beneficiaries while alive and alert them of your wishes. Speak with your beneficiaries and ensure they understand what you're trying to accomplish so everyone is on the same page and the risk of disputes is minimized as much as possible.
To avoid any confusion or misunderstanding, be sure that the person you have chosen as executor (the person responsible for carrying out your last wishes listed in your will) is aware of the importance of the role and understands what he or she will need to do when it comes time to probate your will.
#3 – Consider a Revocable Living Trust Instead
If your specific situation generates a higher risk of your will being contested, you may want to place your assets in a revocable living trust.
A revocable living trust effectively avoids a will contest because the trust, and not your will, controls how your assets pass. A living trust avoids the probate process, which can be expensive, time-consuming, and abides by private terms that you establish early on.
In a revocable living trust, you designate your beneficiaries and lay down any other terms required. Once you pass away, the assets you placed in that trust are distributed to those beneficiaries alone, and anyone else left out of the trust is not legally privy to its details and assets.