I recently read a MarketWatch post regarding the contesting of a will where the writer’s mother-in-law left everything to her second husband. The writer was wondering if her children could contest the will and what the resulting outcome might be. The writer was in Kentucky, but essentially the laws in Michigan are the same.
The story: The writer’s mother-in-law passed away and 7 years prior the writer’s husband, the oldest child was named as her executor. It was a simple will, dividing the assets between her three children. The writer later found out that her Mother-in-law changed the will leaving everything to her second husband yet the executor remained the same. There is an expensive vacation home and numerous retirement accounts at stake.
“A will can generally be contested on one of three grounds: lack of testamentary capacity (in this case, of your mother-in-law), undue influence from a family member (or her second husband) and improper execution.”
Contesting a will involves asking a judge to invalidate it. This means objecting to the probate of the Will. The thing is, to contest, there must have legal grounds and legal interest in the estate. In Michigan, the main legal grounds that support contesting a Will are:
- Lack of Testamentary Capacity
- Undue Influence
- Non-Conformity With Legal Requirements
Let’s examine each scenario:
Contesting a Will due to lack of testamentary capacity usually happens with older individuals that have cognitive impairment. Michigan law requires a person to have “sufficient mental capacity” to execute a Will. When there is evidence that a new Will, perhaps close to the time of death, there may be a legal basis for contesting the Will.
A second common reason for contesting a Will is the claim that there was undue influence regarding the execution of the Will. Undue influence means that another person unfairly coerced or pressured the deceased into signing the Will. Proving undue influence may be challenging to prove unfair coercion.
Michigan law includes very specific requirements that must be met in order for a Will to be valid. When that fails to happen, the Will may be invalid and may be contested in court.
Finally, fraud is another possible reason to contest a Will. Evidence of fraud may support challenging the validity of the Will. I am sure you have seen this in movies when the person who signed a Will believed it was a different document.
Contesting a will is not as straightforward as it may seem. For the case in the article I read, contesting the will may be possible if documents were not created according to the law. However, most state laws give a spouse certain rights to inherit property and assets. More information may be required to make a case for contesting the Will.
If you find yourself in this situation, feel free to contact me about your options. Contesting a Will can become a long drawn out process, however in some situations it may be worth the effort!