Case Study: An Outdated Will Leads to a Sibling Legal Battle

Julie* has spent the year since her mother’s death fighting with her siblings over her mother’s estate. Her mother’s Will names executors who are deceased. In addition, the Will is so old and outdated it no longer complies with New Jersey’s state probate laws.

Julie’s case illustrates just some of the very troubling consequences of failing to update a Will. Besides the time and money Julie is spending in court, she is also paying the high emotional costs that accompany these stressful and unnecessary situations.

When the Named Executor(s) Have Passed

Since the executors named in the mom’s Will have died, any of the mom’s adult children can apply to be appointed estate administrator.

Under the law, when a Will does not name any living executors, someone must petition the court to appoint what is called an Administrator C.T.A. (which stands for cum testamento annexo, meaning “with the will annexed” in Latin). The Administrator C.T.A. then handles all matters involved with probating the Will and administering the estate per the Will’s terms. The court looks first to the deceased’s closest next of kin to appoint as Administrator C.T.A. before considering someone else, like another relative, friend or professional, third-party estate administrator.

When Julie first came to Timothy Rice Elder & Estate Law, she had already petitioned the court twice to be appointed administrator. Each time, her siblings blocked the appointment. Interestingly, neither of Julie’s siblings are asking to be named administrator themselves — they’re just not supporting her efforts by renouncing their rights to act as administrator. On Julie’s third attempt, her siblings didn’t respond at all.

Julie was forced to take the case to court. She is asking a judge to appoint her as administrator or, if that’s not possible, to appoint a third party so that her mother’s estate can finally be distributed. A third-party administrator is a viable solution, though more costly than having a family member act as administrator.

When the Will is Outdated

Meanwhile, because the mom’s Will is so old, it no longer complies with New Jersey’s probate laws and the Surrogate Court could not accept it. Part of the issue is that the two witnesses who signed the Will are no longer living and the Will was signed before there was a requirement that it be notarized.

The Will is now subject to the Surrogate Court’s discretion, just as if she died without a Will (called “intestate”). Since the Will left all assets to the three children equally, the end result will likely be the same. However, the inheritances will be decreased by the attorneys’ fees and court costs associated with the probate court process.

*Names have been changed to protect the client’s privacy.

Timothy Rice Estate & Elder Law Firm, provide trusted guidance on the legal complexities and insurance intricacies so that your coverage effectively protects your family against potential financial hardships. Contact us today.

Executors, Outdated Will, Siblings, Will. Probate

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