Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in New Jersey

My friend's father passed away 5 years ago. Hi s mother is in the hospital, very ill. His only sister lives in the mother's house, rent free, with her husband and 3 kids. The mother has a very old will, probably in a shoebox in the back of a closet. My friend is the only beneficiary, since his sister hadn't been born at the time.

My friend is concentrating on his sick mother right now, so I want to get some information on what will occur after she passes away, to help him be prepared.

If he and his sister do nothing, will someone eventually come calling? IRS, court, etc...? Should he try to get his hands on the physical will, if possible? And contact an attorney?

Surely his sister will try to contest the will, since she expects to live in the house forever, for free...yet the will leaves everything to my friend. Does she have any legal standing in this case? There certainly will be a family feud over this, and I want to know what first steps will be occuring if my friend does nothing, as well as what steps he should be taking to protect himself.

Thanks for your help!

Asked on 12/19/12, 9:05 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Jonathan Chester Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper, P.C.

Yes, you friend needs to locate the original will, although if it's as old as you think it is, it may not be very helpful...[i.e. it may not be self-proving so will be difficult to probate, and the executor's named in the will may all be deceased].

If the sister was born after the will was signed, by law she will NOT be disinherited.

Your friend should see an attorney as soon as possible. If his mother is still competent, she should sign a new will to see that her current wishes are implemented.

As for the house, yes, this seems like a major problem. It could be addressed in a new will, by directing the executor to sell the house w/in "x" days and divide the proceeds...or in the alternative, the house could be left to the daugher and assets of equal value left to the other child/children [assuming there are other assets].

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Answered on 12/19/12, 9:18 am

Robert Davies The Davies Law Firm, P.A.

Your friend has a couple of ways to deal with this. Yes, he will have to take action, it will not be automatic at all. I am close by and can assist him.

No cost to him to meet with me, I am happy to help him. This is a miserable time of year for his mom to be so sick. I would suggest that he call me whenever is good for him, and come in to see me, and I will go over the situation and give him some advice. He should prepare for this situation, it will be difficult and a good lawyer can really assist him through this.

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Answered on 12/19/12, 9:19 am

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