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Will Contests in New Jersey

(480 reviews)

Produced on August 23, 2016

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Course Information

Time 51m
Difficulty Beginner
Topics covered in this course: Wills, Trusts, & Estates

Course Description

Disputes involving wills, trusts, and intestacy in New Jersey are heard in the Chancery Division, Probate Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey. Under recent policy directives, such proceedings are to be settled or tried within one year, although the courts’ compliance with that directive seems to vary from county to county. Regardless of the timing, however, the courts in all 21 counties follow the same procedural rules as set forth in Title 3B of the New Jersey Statutes “Administration of Estates – Decedents and Others” and Part IV, Chapter IX of the Rules Governing Civil Practice in the Superior Court, Tax Court and Surrogate’s Court.

This course, led by attorney Thomas Howard, examines the various substantive issues that frequently come into play in estate litigation in the context of the procedural requirements applicable to litigation in the New Jersey Chancery Court, Probate Part. 

Learning Objectives:
  1. Define the threshold requirements for submitting a Last Will for probate, and distinguish intestacy proceedings
  2. Understand the requirement of standing
  3. Formulate objections to probate both before and after the filing of the Will, on grounds of incapacity or incompetence, forgery or fraud, undue influence or duress, ambiguity or insufficiency of language, revocation or failure to satisfy the statutory formalities
  4. Explore the objections that can be made to the qualifications or conduct of the executor, including breach of fiduciary duty and failure to render a timely accounting
  5. Examine the rights of a surviving spouse or child to demand a distribution not provided for in the Will
  6. Recognize the waiting periods and deadlines for filing objections or commencing proceedings
  7. Identify the possible effects of an in terrorem clause
  8. Gain insight on additional considerations before making distributions of bequests under a Will
  9. Consider the circumstances under which the Estate may be required to pay the attorney’s fees of the person contesting the Will

Credit Information

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Thomas Howard

Gartenberg Howard LLP

Tom is a member of the law firm of Gartenberg Howard LLP with offices in Hackensack, New Jersey and midtown Manhattan. His practice focuses on probate proceedings and will contests, nursing home abuse and neglect, and professional malpractice.

After graduating from New York University Law School in 1977, Tom began his legal career as a law clerk in the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court. He then became associated with a large Wall Street law firm where he worked as a litigator for 9 years, regularly appearing in the Supreme Court of New York and United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. He tried several cases in those courts and argued several appeals in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the New York state appellate courts, including the New York Court of Appeals.

In 1988, Tom returned to New Jersey, where he had grown up, to join his partner in forming Gartenberg Howard LLP. Throughout, Tom’s practice has concentrated on civil litigation, including probate proceedings, with which he now has almost 30 years experience, and nursing home abuse and neglect cases on behalf of the plaintiff. He has handled over 50 trials, mostly before juries, many complex arbitrations, and numerous appeals to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit 

Tom has obtained many multi-million dollar jury verdicts and settlements in the course of his career. Among his more notable reported cases are: Kleine v. Emeritus at Emerson, 2016 N.J. Super. LEXIS 80 (App.Div. 2016)(approved for publication); Morganroth & Morganroth v. Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus, P.C., 331 F.3d 406 (3rd Cir. N.J. 2003); and Elvin Assoc. v. Aretha Franklin, 735 F. Supp. 1177 (S.D.N.Y. 1990). In 2003 he represented the plaintiffs in a six week trial in a securities and breach of contract case in Bergen County, New Jersey the resulted in a jury verdict awarding his clients’ $7.6 million, which he collected after defeating the defendants’ appeals to the Appellate Division and the New Jersey Supreme Court. (Meyers v. RCM Techs., Inc., 2005 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 246 (App.Div. 2005))

Tom holds an “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubbell and is annually voted a SuperLawyer as a New Jersey litigator. He is a member of the American Association for Justice and of the Nursing Home Litigation Group. He has spoken on interested groups on various probate topics. He is admitted to practice in the States of New Jersey and New York and in the United States District Courts for New Jersey and the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York as well as the United States Courts of Appeal for the First, Second and Third Circuits, the United States Tax Court and the Supreme Court of the United States.

Tom graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Hobart College and received his Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law where he was on the editorial board of the N.Y.U. Journal of International Law and Politics. He continues annually to serve as a judge in the law school moot court competition.


Kathryn O.

This was personally interesting having just finished testifying regarding an out of state will contest. I am trying to learn more about NJ wills and this was very helpful.

Andrew S.

concise, clear presentation

Jason O.

good speaker

Eric C.

Nice to learn about material in an area I've never practiced, and therefore had little knowledge.

Christopher M.

This guy was great. Would listen again

Paul N.


Laura M.

well and clearly presented, though it is a basic overview.

Barry R.

Very informative.

Christopher G.

Good course!

David L.

Good lecturer. Topic possibly needed more than one hour (50 minutes).


Clear and interesting Thank you for a stimulating class.

Bonnie K.


dante d.

Very clear and well done presentation

Kristine S.

Very good lecturer. His written materials were some of the best - very thorough and not just bullet points. Recommend highly. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

Randy T.


Alexandria M.

Presenter was good at defining terms and explaining legal concepts for attorneys that do not usually handle wills.

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