Guide to Estate Disputes in New Jersey

Estate Disputes in New Jersey: Navigating Will Contests, Beneficiary Disputes, and Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims

Estate disputes in New Jersey can be complex and emotionally charged, often involving family members and close friends. These disputes may arise from various issues, such as will contests and challenges, beneficiary disputes, and breach of fiduciary duty claims.

This estate dispute guide discusses the role of mediation and litigation in resolving estate matters.

Estate Disputes

Will Contests and Challenges

A will contest or challenge occurs when an interested party, such as a family member or beneficiary, questions the validity of a deceased person’s will. In New Jersey, there are several grounds upon which a will may be contested.

Lack of Testamentary Capacity

The testator, the individual creating the will, must possess the mental capacity to comprehend the nature and value of their property, identify the rightful recipients of their assets, and understand the decisions they are making regarding the distribution of their estate.

Undue Influence

A will may be invalidated if it is proven that the testator was subjected to undue influence, coercion, or duress by another person, resulting in a will that does not reflect the testator’s true intentions.

Improper Execution

In New Jersey, the testator and two witnesses must sign the will, which must be signed at the same time and in the presence of each other. Following these formalities is crucial to ensure the will’s validity.


A will may be invalidated if it is procured through fraud, such as misrepresenting facts or a forgery.

To contest a will in New Jersey, an interested party must file a complaint with the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Probate Part in the county where the decedent resided. The party contesting the will has the burden of proof and must provide clear and convincing evidence to support their claim.

Beneficiary Disputes

Guide to Estate Disputes in New Jersey

Beneficiary disputes arise when there is disagreement among the beneficiaries of an estate regarding the distribution of assets. These disputes may involve issues such as:

Interpretation of the Will

Beneficiaries may differ on the interpretation of certain provisions in the will, leading to conflicts over the distribution of assets.

Omitted Heirs

Sometimes, a testator may unintentionally or intentionally omit a family member from their will. This can lead to disputes if the omitted heir believes they are entitled to a share of the estate.


Ademption occurs when a specific gift mentioned in the will is no longer part of the estate at the time of the testator’s death. If the intended recipient of the gift believes they are entitled to compensation, this can cause disputes among beneficiaries.

Resolving beneficiary disputes can involve negotiation, mediation, or litigation, depending on the complexity of the matter and the parties’ readiness to find a solution.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims

A fiduciary is a person or entity entrusted with managing property or assets on behalf of another party. In estate matters, fiduciaries may include executors, administrators, or trustees. These individuals have a legal obligation to act in the beneficiaries’ best interests and manage the estate according to the terms of the will or trust.

A breach of fiduciary duty claim can occur if a fiduciary neglects their responsibilities or behaves in a way that harms the beneficiaries. Examples of breach of fiduciary duty include:


When a fiduciary uses estate assets for their benefit rather than the beneficiaries’ benefit.

Mismanagement of Assets

If a fiduciary fails to manage estate assets properly, resulting in financial losses for the beneficiaries.

Failure to Communicate

Fiduciaries must keep beneficiaries informed about the administration of the estate. Failure to do so may constitute a breach of fiduciary duty.

To pursue a breach of fiduciary duty claim, a beneficiary must file a complaint with the appropriate court and provide evidence to support their claim. If successful, remedies may include the removal of the fiduciary, compensation for financial losses, and other equitable relief.

Mediation and Litigation in Estate Matters

When conflicts over estates emerge, individuals have the option to settle them either through mediation or litigation. Mediation involves a third and neutral party, known as the mediator, who guides discussions between the involved parties to help them find a resolution they agree upon. This approach tends to be faster and more cost-effective than litigation, empowering the parties to retain control over the final outcome.

However, litigation may be necessary if mediation is unsuccessful or the parties are unwilling to engage. Litigation involves filing a complaint with the appropriate court and presenting evidence to support one’s claim. Then, the court will issue a ruling based on the evidence that was given and the applicable laws.

In New Jersey, the Superior Court, Chancery Division, and Probate Part typically handle estate litigation matters. These courts have jurisdiction over probate matters, including will contests, beneficiary disputes, and breach of fiduciary duty claims.

Parties involved in estate disputes need to seek guidance from experienced legal professionals to help them navigate the complexities of probate law and protect their rights and interests.

For Estate Disputes, Seek Advice from the NJ Executor

Estate disputes in New Jersey can be challenging and emotionally draining for all parties involved. Will contests and challenges, beneficiary disputes, and breach of fiduciary duty claims are among the most common types of estate disputes.

By understanding the legal framework surrounding these issues and the available methods for resolution, such as mediation and litigation, individuals can better protect their rights and interests in estate matters.

As with any legal issue, it is essential to seek the advice of qualified attorneys specializing in probate and estate law. The NJ Executor professionals can provide guidance, representation, and support throughout your estate disputes and resolution process, helping to ensure a fair outcome for all parties involved. Contact NJ Executor today.

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