We may not always be on the best terms with our parents, but to find out upon their death that we were left out of their will entirely can come as a shock. If we think this is entirely inappropriate, we have the option of challenging our parent’s will.
Grounds for challenging a will
There are several grounds upon which a will can be challenged.
Wills must be executed in accordance with New Jersey law. For example, there must be a specific number of witnesses to the signing of the will, and there are other legal formalities to follow as well. We can challenge a will on grounds that it was not executed as required by state law.
Our parents cannot be unduly influenced into disinheriting us. This means that a third person cannot exert such control, persuasion and manipulation over our parents that our parents are unjustifiably convinced against their will that we should be disinherited.
Our parents cannot be coerced into disinheriting us. This means they cannot be forced through threats or otherwise to sign a will that disinherits us.
Our parents must have the mental capacity to sign a will. This means they have enough understanding of who their heirs are, the extent of their estate and what signing a will means to knowingly execute a will that reflects their true intent.
Finally, if our parents had more than one will, we can argue that the most recent will differs from a previous one or that a previous will was never properly destroyed.
If the challenge is successful
If we challenge our parent’s will and we are successful, the will is invalidated, and state intestacy laws will dictate who is to inherit. These laws generally contain provisions that surviving adult children will automatically inherit a portion of their parent’s estate should their parent pass away without a will.
Still, it can be very difficult to have a will invalidated. Wills serve as the last voice of the deceased, and courts are hesitant to simply strike one down because we do not like it. If we think our parent’s will should not be followed, it is best to move forward knowing we have an uphill battle ahead of us.