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How a typo in a will can lead to estate litigation

| Mar 25, 2019 | Estate Litigation |

When New Jersey residents take the time to go through the estate planning process, the hope is that their assets will be distributed to their named beneficiaries in the manner stated in their wills. One small thing can mess up those plans, however — typos. A typo in a will can lead to estate litigation, which can end up costing beneficiaries in the end. There is an ongoing case in another state that is the perfect example of this.

President Andrew Jackson granted the Blackburn family hundreds of acres of land across three states back in 1811. The land has been passed from generation to generation, and the family claims they have no intent of giving it away. The last individual who legally owned the land died in 2014. The fate of the estate has been uncertain ever since.

According to Mr. Blackburn’s will, the land was to pass to his son, but as his son died in 2015, the property was then to pass to his sister’s children. If anything happened to the children or no living relatives remained to pass the property to, then and only then was the land to be donated. Sounds pretty straight forward, but the actual will stated that, if his son died before he did, then the property would pass to the children. As the son did not die before him, the charities listed in the failure of beneficiary clause believe they have claim to the land.

This case did go to court. A judge declared that a typo was made in the will. Two simple words were missing, “or died.” So, the will should have stated that, if the son predeceased Mr. Blackburn “or died,” the estate would pass to the children. This was a big win for these three beneficiaries, but their fight is not over just yet, as claims are still being made against the estate.

How a will is written matters. Anyone who is closing out a loved one’s estate in New Jersey and is having issues with how the will is worded may find the administration process more difficult than expected. An experienced estate litigation attorney may be able to help tackle the situation and see that the estate is distributed in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.