Contesting A Will In Michigan
The 4 Reasons To Contest A Will In Michigan
In some cases when a person passes away (decedent), a family member may disagree with the wishes and inheritance left behind in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament.
In other cases, a family member may be upset with being disinherited, or suspect foul play with respect to the creation of the Will and the documentation of their deceased relative’s final wishes.
In cases like these, it is common that a family member may contest a Will in Michigan.
Contesting a Will in Michigan is a legal process in which eligible parties can ask the Probate court to make a Will invalid.
In order to contest a Will in Michigan, a person must have the legal grounds to do so.
Additionally, they must have a legal interest in the estate.
This article will cover frequently asked questions with respect to contesting a Will in Michigan.
What Is A Last Will and Testament?
A Last Will and Testament, or Will, is a document that states your final wishes as to who should receive your money and property after you pass away.
You Will can be used for:
- State who should receive your assets and in what percentage
- When the beneficiary should receive their share, and under what conditions
- Name a guardian to care for minor children
- Name a conservator to care for minor children
- Appoint a Personal Representative
Does A Will Avoid Probate Court?
No, a Will does not avoid Probate. It is actually your letter to the Probate Court telling them how you would like your money and property distributed, and who should be in charge of settling your estate.
Your Will is processed with the Probate Court in the county where you lived.
Sometimes, your family may not agree about what they are entitled to from your estate and whether or not your Will is valid.
What Is A Contested Will In Michigan?
A Will contest is the court process of a family member challenging the Will of the decedent in order for the court to find it invalid. When contesting a Will in Michigan, there must be valid grounds to do so under Michigan Law. For example, someone believes their mother was forced into signing a Will and wants to challenge it in court.
Who Can Contest A Will In Michigan?
Contesting a Will in Michigan can only be done by those who have a legal interest in an estate. In other words, only those who could benefit from the Will if the court finds it invalid. Anyone who does not have interest in the estate cannot contest a Will in Michigan because they do not have legal standing.
The following list of people may contest the Will:
- Those with a legal interest in the estate
- Those who are beneficiaries of the Will
- Fiduciaries of the estate
Typically, those who contest the Will are those who were disinherited, or those who would receive a larger share under Michigan law if the Will was found invalid.
When Can A Will Be Contested In Michigan?
Incapacity is when someone lacks the physical or mental ability to manage his or her own personal care, property, or finances.
If the person creating the Will did not have the capacity required to create it, it may be contested. To sign the Will, they must understand what their assets are, their relationships, and what is the legal impact of signing the Will.
According to Michigan law, there are components to capacity:
- The individual must be 18 years of age or older and have sufficient mental capacity to make a will.
- An individual has sufficient mental capacity to create a will if all of the below requirements are met:
- The creator of the Will understands that they are providing for the disposition of their property after death
- The creator understands the nature and extent of their property
- The creator understands their relationship with those who would be recipients of their estate
- The creator understands the nature and effect of their act in signing the Will.
Determining if your loved one was qualified to sign a Will may be complicated, but an experienced Michigan Probate Lawyer will help guide you through the process.
As people age, it is common for their physical and mental state to weaken. Sometimes, a family member may take advantage of this by convincing their elderly loved one to sign a Will that may be contrary to their wishes. This is known as undue influence and is grounds for contesting a will in Michigan.
Fraud is also a valid reason to contest a Will in Michigan. Fraud is a deception intended to result in financial and/or personal gain. Fraud occurs when someone intentionally misrepresents the truth which causes another person to suffer a loss. When it comes to Estate Planning, fraud often goes hand in hand with undue influence. For example, Mary thinks she’s signing a Will leaving her estate to her children, but she is actually signing a Will leaving her estate to her next door neighbor.
Improper procedure happens when a Will wasn’t signed as required by Michigan law and may warrant contesting a Will in Michigan. In Michigan, the creator must sign the document in the presence of two witnesses and a notary.
How Can You Avoid A Will Contest In Michigan?
If you have concerns about your Will being contested in Michigan, we recommend the following:
- Avoid doing your Estate Plan yourself: There are many online resources to create your own Estate Plan, however they may be confusing and not offer proper guidance. It is best to speak with an experienced Estate Planning Attorney to create a Will or any other Estate Planning document.
- Create a Living Trust: A Living Trust is a private document that avoids probate. A Trust is much less likely to be contested because only the people who created the Trust are able to know its contents.
- Discuss your Estate Plan with your family: You should let your family know that you have created an Estate Plan. It is not necessary that they know all the details of each document.
- Use a Discretionary Trust for beneficiaries: You may require that a beneficiary’s share be held in a Discretionary Trust and name a neutral third party to be Trustee. This allows the creator to control when the beneficiary should receive their share and who will inherit the share if the beneficiary dies.
- Keep your Estate Plan updated: Estate Plans are constantly evolving. Laws, family, assets, and circumstances change, so it is best to keep all your documents updated.
What Should You Do If You Need Help With A Contested Will In Michigan?
If you or a loved one are faced with the difficult choice of challenging a will, or defending against a family member who wants to contest a Will in Michigan, you should speak with an experienced Michigan Probate Lawyer, as soon as possible.
A Probate Lawyer can help you navigate the process so that your loved one’s money and property can be properly distributed to their heirs.
The Probate process is long, stressful, and complicated – especially when dealing with a contested Will in Michigan.
At Rochester Law Center, our compassionate Michigan Probate Lawyers are experienced in all matters of Probate Administration and serve every county in the state of Michigan and help guide through the complicated paperwork and legal proceedings you’ll undoubtedly be facing.
We understand the intricacies and nuances involved with Probating an Estate and can help you navigate every step of the way while keeping costs as low as possible.
Call us today at (248) 613-0007 for a free case evaluation.