IS YOUR FAMILY FIGHTING OVER A WILL?
ARE ACCUSATIONS BEING MADE OF FRAUD, UNDUE INFLUENCE, LACK OF MENTAL COMPETENCY IN THE MAKING OF A WILL? DO YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW TO CONTEST A WILL?
YOU MAY BE EMBARRASSED TO SAY “YES”, BUT THE TRUTH IS YOU’RE NOT ALONE. WE UNDERSTAND.
It’s an old tale. Ever since the ancient laws of primogeniture (eldest son gets it all) were swept away by the right of everyone to make a will, heirs have objected to even the best made wills and trusts. Conflicts among family members, heirs and executors can arise before or during the probate of an estate.
Don’t think it’s limited to just you and yours… it’s everywhere. Sad but true. Maybe you’re a beneficiary who’s getting the runaround from an executor, trustee or personal representative. They don’t answer your calls, letters or worse, haven’t sent you your money.
You may be hesitant but you know you need help and you need the help of an experienced probate and estate litigation attorney in New Jersey who knows estate, trust and probate law. You also need a tough probate, trust and trial attorney to deal with difficult family members or an unreasonable executor/trustee, or creditor.
Probate estate litigation is tough. Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann litigates tough family disputes. We’re experienced probate trial attorneys with an extensive background in probate law and litigation. We have been involved in hundreds of cases, many just like yours.
New Jersey Probate Trial Lawyers Assist in Will Contests and NJ Probate Litigation
The fact that a person has a will does not guarantee that his or her property will be distributed according to the expressed terms in the will or trust. The County Surrogate of each county in New Jersey will provide an opportunity to allow others (including you!) to object to the probate of a will or to the probate of an estate, and a challenge may be brought by anyone who feels the estate or the will is inaccurate or invalid in some way. These types of cases are difficult and emotionally charged, so it’s important to find an attorney with whom you feel comfortable and who is knowledgeable about probate litigation.
But we don’t litigate just to litigate. We’ll first try to mediate the disagreement in a practical and responsible way, preferring mediation of probate disputes and will contest where possible consistent with our client’s rights, goals and instructions.
Is your family fighting? The truth is, you’re not alone.
I knew I needed an attorney, but could I afford one? Would he or she be experienced and someone I could trust and talk to openly and in confidence?
I was referred to Fredrick P. Niemann. I was warmly greeted and my appointment promptly kept. I was given all the time I needed to ask questions and talk about my needs and concerns. I was quoted a fee that was appropriate and reasonable for my matter. My attorney gave me answers and advice. He was a counselor at law and in life. Calling Fredrick P. Niemann was the right decision.
—Nick Alfano, Morganville, NJ
My wife and I wanted to express our gratitude for the guidance and patience from you and your staff along this journey. Life is strange at times and the things that bring us together can be just as strange, if not more.
I not only got to put a few bucks in the bank, but got to reconnect with my cousin Sarah, which was a great surprise for me. That alone was worth the journey for me. Getting to know her and the family has been really nice.
I know it was a long day for all of us in mediation, but I really am blessed to have gotten to know you and talk with you. I admire your skills, work ethic and attitude regarding time and Patience. When the opposing attorney was running her big mouth and doing her thing, you never lost your composure, nor your position. I’m hoping it’s one of the nuggets I’m able to take and implement in my personal/professional life.
The short version of this story is that you have a lot to offer people, you’re a true, trusted advisor. Your words and actions seem to align with your values, which is like common sense, very hard to come by now a days. Your staff does a great job as well. Please let them know that as often as you can.
Keep up the good work Fred and thanks again.
- Mike Price – Plainfield, IN
Maybe you are a beneficiary who feels they are getting the runaround from an executor, trustee or personal representative. You feel like they aren’t answering your calls, your letters, or haven’t sent you the money you were promised.
The final administration of an estate involves many things: probate of the will, collection of the estate assets, calculation and payment of estate taxes and the distribution of assets to beneficiaries. Sometimes there are delays in this process, caused by various questionable circumstances, such as the testamentary capacity of the deceased to sign a will or issues surrounding the actions of a power of attorney and misuse of the power of attorney by the person appointed, undue influence, conflict of interest and self dealing. An experienced NJ will contest and probate estate attorney can facilitate the process, even if questionable circumstances arise, in a timely and effective manner. This is especially important if there are suspicious circumstances such as testamentary capacity to sign a will or to appoint a power of attorney and/or the misuse of the power of attorney by the person appointed, undue influence, conflicts of interest, self dealing and fraud.
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Do You Need an Attorney to Review a Will and Explain its Provisions to You in Simple English Before Filing a Will Contest?
It’s a familiar story, one that repeats itself decade after decade. Each of us has a personal right to make a will but heirs and others will object to even the best made wills and trusts. Conflicts arise before or during the probate of an estate, leading up to a will contest.
The fact that a person leaves a will does not guarantee that property will be distributed according to the expressed terms in the will. If bad faith or poor stewardship of an estate or trust is involved, a court generally must provide an opportunity to allow others to object to the will, and a challenge may be brought by anyone who feels the will is inaccurate or invalid in some way. These types of cases are often difficult and emotionally charged, so it is important to find an attorney with whom you feel comfortable and who is knowledgeable about such proceedings.
Frequently, heirs object to even the best made wills and trusts and conflicts can arise before or during the administration of an estate or a trust. There are many types of disputes that can arise. Here are a few examples:
Everyone has the right to dispose of his or her property as they wish, without consideration for the wishes or opinions of family, friends or anyone else. It is possible, however, to set aside a will or trust. A person contesting the estate plan must prove that at the time the Last Will or trust was signed, the deceased lacked the requisite mental capacity, or that the will or trust was procured as the result of undue influence, fraud or duress. Also, some wills or trusts are invalid because they were not properly executed. For example, wills must be signed before two witnesses and notarized, except for holographic wills written in the hand of the testator (the person whose will it is). If the witnesses signed the will after the fact and did not actually see the decedent sign the will, then the will may be thrown out as invalid.
When that happens, if there is a valid prior will or trust, the court will go back to the earlier document and distribute the decedent’s assets in the manner it provides. If there is no valid prior will or trust, then the decedent’s estate will pass through probate as if he or she died without a will at all, known as dying “intestate”, or dying without a will.
Be advised that many wills and trusts have “no contest” clauses that are designed to discourage contests. This means that if you are an heir and you contest the validity of a will and you lose, then you may be disinherited by operation of the no-contest clause.
BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY BY A NJ EXECUTOR OR NJ TRUSTEE
Executors and trustees owe a fiduciary duty to the heirs and beneficiaries of the decedent. A fiduciary duty consists of a duty of good faith and fair dealing, and a duty of competency. A fiduciary must always consider the best interests of the trust or estate before his or her interests. When an executor or trustee profits from his or her position, other than earning agreed-upon compensation, they may have breached their fiduciary duty. A failure to safeguard trust or estate assets that causes a loss to the heirs and beneficiaries may also be a breach of fiduciary duty. The heirs and beneficiaries damaged as a result can file a lawsuit against the executor or trustee. Under some circumstances, the executor or trustee can be held personally liable for the loss.
FAILURE TO ACCOUNT TO BENEFICIARIES BY A NJ TRUSTEE OR EXECUTOR
Trustees and executors have a duty to keep all estate assets separate and identifiable, and to account to the beneficiaries for all monies coming into and going out. For probate estates, the court will not allow probate to end until a satisfactory accounting is complete. If the trustee of a trust fails to provide a proper accounting, the beneficiaries can file a petition seeking a court order compelling the trustees to do an accounting. Trustees who fail to properly account for their actions may be removed by the court.
The court will order them to account if they do not do so, unless all of the beneficiaries agree to waive such an accounting. If the executor or trustee has failed to keep records, or if they have failed to keep estate property separate from their own, a breach of their fiduciary duty is presumed.
CONTRACT TO MAKE A WILL: IS IT ENFORCEABLE IN NJ?
Frequently, people make promises they never keep. Some of these promises relate to wills and trusts, such as what a parent verbally promises their child upon their death and what is actually outlined in a will. When a promise isn’t fulfilled, sometimes it is possible in NJ to enforce what the courts call a “Contract to Make a Will.”
As a general rule, agreements to make a bequest of property after death must be in writing. If they are not in writing, such agreements are unenforceable. There is, however, one exception to this rule and that is where the person to whom the promise was made changed his or her position in reliance of the promise and suffered a detriment as a result when the promise was not fulfilled.
Here is an example to illustrate when a Breach of Contract to Make a Will in NJ would apply:
WILL CONTESTS: CAN YOU CONTEST A WILL IN NJ?
The fact that a person leaves a will does not guarantee that property will be distributed according to the expressed terms in the will. A court generally must provide an opportunity to allow others to object to the will, and a challenge may be brought by anyone who feels the will is inaccurate or invalid in some way. These types of cases are often difficult and emotionally charged, so it is important to find an attorney with whom you feel comfortable and who is knowledgeable about such proceedings.
We have experience in litigating tough family disputes. We are experienced probate trial attorneys with an extensive background in probate law and litigation. In any dispute, we first try to mediate the disagreement in a practical and responsible way, preferring mediation and conciliation where possible consistent with our client’s rights, goals and instructions.
To speak with a knowledgeable probate dispute attorney, please call Fredrick P. Niemann
toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or
e-mail him at email@example.com
and set up an office consultation at your convenience to discuss your matter. He welcomes your calls and inquiries and you’ll find him easy to talk to and very approachable.
At Hanlon Niemann, we have experience in litigating tough family disputes. We are trusted and experienced will contest trial attorneys throughout NJ with an extensive background in estate law and litigation. In any dispute, we first try to mediate the disagreement in a practical and responsible way, preferring mediation and conciliation where possible consistent with our client’s rights, goals and instructions.
Please see our related websites that discuss will contests and matters relating to probate and estates: