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Mr. Norris is an expert Civil Trial Attorney as certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey. Mr. Norris is also a member of the firm’s Litigation practice.

It is not uncommon for drafters of Wills to include a “no-contest clause” in a decedent’s Last Will and Testament. The purpose of the “no-contest clause” is to provide for the disinheritance of an heir to the estate should they challenge the validity of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament. While a “no-contest clause” could ultimately have this effect, it can likewise be defeated during a challenge to a Will. Further, if the litigation is settled before trial, there would typically be an agreement between the parties that the “no-contest clause” would not apply.

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Suppose a party seeks to challenge a decedent’s last will and testament based upon claims of competency or the improper assertion of undue influence. In that case, this contestant may also seek to challenge the transfer of certain non-probate assets that could comprise either the majority or a substantial percentage of the decedent’s assets. The grounds for challenging such transfers may be identical to those pursued in a challenge to a last will and testament, however, may be subject to applicable statutes and different standards of proof that govern a challenge to a particular class of asset.

Continue Reading Challenging the Transfer of Non-Probate Assets

During a Will contest, there are several different ways that a party seeking to challenge the validity of a Will may attack the document. One of the most common ways is to challenge the decedent’s competency when he/she executed the Will. In essence, the challenge would be that the decedent was not mentally competent at the time he/she executed the last will and testament, and therefore, this document is invalid as a matter of law.

Continue Reading Invalidating a Will Due to Lack of Competency of the Decedent

Once an individual is appointed as an executor of an estate, they will have access to assets that belong to the estate. Some of these assets may involve liquid funds which the executor can utilize during the administration of the estate to complete this process. Some permissible uses would be retaining counsel to assist with administration, or using assets of the estate to pay any applicable taxes or expenses of the estate. Unfortunately, at times, the executor may improperly utilize estate assets for their benefit and not for the benefit of the estate or the beneficiaries of the same. Such misuse of estate funds by an executor would be a breach of the executor’s fiduciary duty.

Continue Reading Misuse of Estate Funds by Executor of an Estate

If you are beneficiary of an Estate, at some point you will be asked to sign a Refunding Bond and Release prior to receiving your bequest from an Estate. The logical question that will arise is what exactly you are being asked to sign. The purpose of this blog is discuss generally what a Refunding Bond and Release is and how it relates to your distribution from the Estate.

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The purpose of this blog is to discuss the first steps an executor should consider if a Will contest is filed either immediately before or after they are appointed an executor an Estate. When a Will contest is filed it is usually commenced by the filing of a verified complaint, which will set forth the rationale by which the party challenging the Will seeks to invalidate it. As discussed in some of my previous blogs, the two main challenges will either be lack of testamentary capacity of the decedent, or undue influence asserted by a person over the decedent who is a beneficiary under the Will.

Continue Reading Defending Will Contest

In general, a codicil to a Will is an amendment to a last will and testament. A codicil can amend a Will in numerous different ways. For instance, it can change the amount of any bequests left under a Will and who will receive said bequests. It can also change who is to serve as the executor of the estate, or other issues related to the administration of the estate. Finally, its purpose may be to add a personal property distribution list. In essence, a codicil to a Will can amend virtually all of the terms of a last will and testament. Often, a person will simply seek to sign a new last will and testament in lieu of a codicil, however, there is nothing improper about utilizing a codicil to effectuate an amendment to their estate plans.

Continue Reading Challenging a Codicil to a Will

Last Will & TestamentAs they say, the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. At some point we will all mourn the loss of a loved one. Once the mourning is completed, questions may arise whether the decedent had a last will and testament under which you might be a beneficiary. If so, the question may then become when might you receive your inheritance. This question is frequently raised, however, the answer is not as simple as some might believe.

Continue Reading When Will I Get My Inheritance?

In a recent appellate decision, the court discussed the N.J. Prompt Pay Act, a fraudulent inducement claim and piercing the corporate veil with regard to a subcontractor’s claims against a general contractor. In finding in favor of the sub-contractor, the court applied the N.J. Prompt Pay Act and a fraudulent inducement claim in order to pierce the corporate veil of the contractor who had declared bankruptcy.

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In a recent matter before the appellate division, the Court discussed the enforceability of an arbitration clause in a construction contract where the clause did not contain a waiver of the right to file a state court action, nor a waiver of the right of a trial by jury. Furthermore, the court also reviewed the enforceability of the clause due to the fact that the font was less than 10-point print, and thus, was very difficult to read.

Continue Reading Enforceability of Arbitration Clauses in a Construction Contract