How to Contest a Will in the State of New Jersey

By Beverly Bird

You may want to contest a will for many reasons. You might believe that the decedent left a more recent one and you need time to investigate. Perhaps you have reason to believe that the decedent wasn’t of sound mind at the time she made the will. The law in New Jersey is set up to provide you with a window of opportunity to prevent a will from being probated until you have an opportunity to convince a judge that it should not be.

Step 1

Determine the county in which the last will and testament will be probated. Under Rule 4:80-1(c) of the New Jersey Judiciary, it should be the one in which the decedent lived at the time he died, but it could also be a county in which he held property, or even a county where property owned by him was transferred to.

Step 2

File a caveat with the Surrogate’s Court in each county where you think the will might be probated. According to Ryan Ian Aufseeser, an attorney in New Jersey, you can file in as many counties as necessary to to protect yourself. A caveat is simply a written statement that you are objecting to the eventual probate. Wills cannot enter probate in New Jersey until 10 days after death, so you have 10 days in which to block the process. If you file a caveat in the appropriate county, New Jersey law prohibits the Surrogate's Court from entering the will into probate until a judge can hear the matter.

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Step 3

Attend the court hearing. Once you have filed a caveat to prevent the will from being entered into probate, the matter is transferred from Surrogate’s Court to Superior Court and you will be given a date to appear in court. A judge will now hear testimony from you, as well as from the will’s executor or her representatives, and he will decide whether to allow probate to proceed. He might also hear testimony from any witnesses to the will or other interested parties.

Step 4

File a motion with the Superior Court to set probate aside if you do not file a caveat in time or if you file it in the wrong county. According to Rule 4:85-1 of the New Jersey Judiciary, if the will has entered probate, you can bypass the Surrogate’s Court and go directly to Superior Court within four months of probate or six months if you live out of state. After filing a motion with the Superior Court, you will be given a hearing date to appear before a judge to explain your position.

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