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Legal Advice Needed: Challenging A Will


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Hey Guys,

I hate to post something so personal online, but I'm hoping some of you might be able to give me some insight and advice. I'm at a loss as to what to do. Has anyone here ever challenged a will? Anyone know if I have a shot? Thanks in advance. I plan on contacting an attorney in NJ, but I'd have to find one who would take the case on a contingency basis.

Here is the story:

My father and I were my aunt's only relatives. She was a resident of New Jersey her entire life (Manasquan for the most part, Toms River for the last few years). She drafted and signed her first will about five years ago. I was the sole beneficiary, my father was chosen as executor. The estate was valued between $700k-$800k. In that will, my aunt intended the money to be used for my education, any excess would be reserved until i reached the age of 30 (via a trust). Despite being an extraordinary person, my aunt suffered from alcoholism which left her physical and mental well being rather lacking. About four years ago my father took her into his home as she was no longer able to care for herself. Although she stopped drinking at this point, the damage was done. Please forgive the crude term, but "wet brain" was the best description of her condition at this point. She was easily confused, lacked an efficient short-term memory, and no longer understood concepts beyond that of a child. She simply no longer had sufficient mental and physical facilities to properly manage daily life and its demands.

In addition to the aforementioned difficulties, my aunt suffered from emphysema and COPD resulting in her being on oxygen. About three years ago she apparently had too much oxygen in her system, the doctors said she had "oxygen toxicity". She actually died for about five minutes but was revived. Unfortunately this toxicity left her with further damage to her lungs in addition to being blind from that point on. At this point, my aunt lost any independence she might have had. She purchased a home in a senior community in Toms River and was assisted by live-in care. My father was appointed power of attorney and held absolute sway of every aspect of her life. Nevertheless my aunt's health and mental well-being continued to decline.

In January '08, her physical and mental deterioration was so great that she required a nursing home. From this point she required a ventilator to breath and was unable to speak. Around May '08, my father and I got into an argument and would not speak again until he notified me of my aunt's death which occurred on 10/11/08. Despite our disagreements, I attempted to maintain contact with my aunt but was prohibited by my father who refused to tell me which nursing home she was at (my mother, who is an attorney, can attest to this as well). My father informed me after the funeral that, as a result of our argument, he had written me out of both his and my aunt's will. This apparently occurred within a few weeks of our argument, the new will was likely drafted in June '08. He said this was to punish me for my disobedience and to ensure that I would not "blow" my aunt's money. This new will lists my father as the sole beneficiary and executor of my aunt's will. Unfortunately, in my father's haste, he did not consider that he is indigent and covered by medicaid thus disqualifying him from that benefit upon execution of my aunt's estate. Considering that my father is 73 years old and also suffers from emphysema, COPD, heart failure, ect - any remnant of my aunt's estate will likely be spent caring for him. This was never my aunt's intention. To be quite frank my aunt and my father never got along, and had not spoken for over 10 years prior to the last five years despite only living a half hour apart and compromising the entire family between themselves. My father said he filed this will with the probate office in Toms River on 10/17/08.

I offer two points which I believe support the challenging of this will. Anybody who came in contact with my aunt would clearly know that she lacked the competency to properly consider everyday decisions, nevermind the drastic reversal of an estate. In addition, my father had a dominating influence over my aunt. For the past three years, he made every decision for her. He had entire control over her assets, property, and well-being. Although he took excellent care of her, his personality demands subservience. As a result he had every opportunity to abuse his position and her incompetency to punish me. Frankly he does not deny this (I do not think he is aware that what he did is wrong). My father is not a greedy man. He changed her will to ensure power of me and the direction of my life. Unfortunately he was unaware that her estate would quickly be used up in the maintenance of his health.

I apologize for the lengthy description. I wish this will did not have to be contested. Nevertheless I have no doubt that my aunt wanted her estate to fund anything but my education and future success. She and my father never had the opportunity to pursue an education. She always spoke of how she wanted a Coll to graduate college. Unfortunately my father's temper now threatens that.

Thanks again to anyone who might be able to help.

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so wait... if that money isn't used to pay the medical bills whose is? shouldn't you care more about your father than an inheritance?

My father does not have health insurance. Medicaid pays my father's medical bills. Between Medicaid and SSI, he is taken care of. Ironically, by receiving the inheritance, he no longer qualifies for the coverage provided for by Medicaid and SSI and would lose all his benefits. Unfortunately for both of us, he was unaware of this when the will was changed.

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Hire a lawyer...

bingo, the laws of each state slightly differ depending on what model they follow.

If your father can prove the will was changed, then that is something. However if you can prove it was done while the person was mentally incapable, that still may not be a defense. Your father was chosen as the executor.

Proving the intent of your aunt would be key.

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