A will is an important legal document and no one should rush into making one. It is important to follow all the steps of properly executing a will. Failing to do so opens up the door to will contests, which can be costly and time-consuming, and can tear families apart.
Under New Jersey law, a will must be “self-proved” if it was executed after 1978. A self-proved will can be probated with no further evidence that it was executed in accordance with New Jersey law.
A self-proved will contains provisions stating that the testator along with two witnesses recognize the document is a will, the testator is age 18 or above and that the testator is of sound mind and was not coerced or subject to undue influence in creating the will. Finally, the will must be approved and subscribed by an attorney or notary public.
The aim of a self-proved will is to prevent will contests by heirs. Will contests can be brought by heirs who believe the will was not properly executed, was the result of coercion or undue influence or was executed by a person who was incapacitated, for example, if they had dementia or Alzheimer’s.
A self-proved will proves that the will was properly executed, willingly, by a person of sound mind. While it is not impossible to contest a self-proved will, a self-proved will is generally more difficult to contest.
Will contests can draw out the probate process, leading to further expenses, delays in the probating of the will and other setbacks. While sometimes a will should rightfully be contested, other times taking the care to properly prove a will can avoid the negative consequences of a will contest.