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In NJ, can a parent write their natural children out of their will?

Moorestown, NJ |

My father died in 2010. He left most of his assest in his will to his wife. His will was never probated in NJ. He was remarried and had 3 step children, I do not know if I have been named in his will and is that legal?

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

In New Jersey, a parent can write his or her natural children out of a will and it is completely legal. The only person who has a legal right to an inheritance is a spouse so long as he or she has not waived said right via a prenuptial agreement. If the will was not probated, it is likely that the assets were transferred outside of a will to someone else. Having said the foregoing, you may still have rights. Approximately ten years ago, I won a case where all the assets passes to a stepmother via a joint account and the will was not probated. The will was discovered as well as evidence that the spouse was to divide the assets with the children from the first marriage. Get competent counsel now to review this matter with you to see whether or not you have a claime.

This response does not constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. It is also not to be taken as firm legal advice as such would be contingent on a full inquiry by the attorney into the complete background of the facts and circumstances surrounding this matter. The response is meant to be a helpful guide to a question in a manner which reflects the limited information provided by the inquirer.

Martin L Bearg

Martin L Bearg


Mr. Begley is correct and if everything passes "by operation of law" (beneficiary designation or as a joint account), then there is no need to probate the Will. If you were omitted, rather than specifically excluded, you are deemed a "pretemided heir." (an overlooked or forgotten heir) IF there are probate assets. If specifically excluded, you probably have no claim, but as Tom has noted, if there was undue influence rather than an true intention on your father to disinherit you, you may have a claim, but such claim needs to be pursued in the state and county in which your father lived.


So long as a person is competent to execute a Will they are free to exclude any or all of their children and can leave their property to whomever they wish. The only person who has a right to an inheritance is a surviving spouse, and that may be limited depending on the State in which the decedent resided.

Since you would be an heir absent a Will you are entitled to a copy of the Will however it is possible that no assets are controlled by the Will if your father owned all of his assets jointly with his wife or named her as beneficiary on assets directly with the companies holding the accounts.

Very truly yours,

Ed Smeltzer

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Yes a parent can write a child out of their will if the are competent at the time of drafting.

Was your father a resident of New Jersey when he passed?

Are you certain there was a will?

If he was a resident of New Jersey and there was a valid will that you can somehow obtain you should bring this to an estate/probate attorney and let them review the situation for you. You may have a cause of action.

Jim Schroeder is licensed to practice law in New Jersey and the District of Columbia. All information provided here is for educational purposes and does not create an attorney client relationship. Q&A on sites like Avvo are not designed to give specific legal advise but to educate legal consumers so they can be better prepared to work with any attorney they choose to retain. Information on this site by Mr. Schroeder is offered to that end.