During a Will contest, there is often the possibility that a Will, which was executed prior to the one which is disputed by the parties, may become relevant during the course of the proceeding. The reason this previous Will may become relevant is if the current Will which has been offered for probate is deemed invalid. In that event, the Court can probate the previous Will to determine the distribution of the property. The question becomes, however, as to what is the best way for a Court to decide upon the validity of these Wills. Often, the Court may review the validity of both the current Will and the previous one at the same proceeding in order to expedite the process. While this may seem strange, it is in the interests of judicial economy that the current Will which is being disputed be reviewed by the Court at the same time as the previous Will.

Obviously, if the current Will is deemed valid, then in that event, the validity of the previous Will is irrelevant. On the other hand, if the current Will is deemed invalid it becomes extremely important whether the previous Will is valid. As such, it is important for a party to consider the possibility as to the distribution under both current Will and the previous Will in the context of a Will contest. That is because it is necessary for the parties to consider how the property may be distributed under either Will in order to be fully informed. Also, the parties should consider the possibility of intestacy, and the potential distributions under this scenario.

Paul Norris is a Shareholder in Stark & Stark’s Probate Litigation Group in our Lawrenceville, New Jersey office. For questions, or additional information, please contact Mr. Norris.