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Surrogate family contests validity of woman's second will

Family members need support after the death of a loved one, and estate distribution in Michigan often poses a particularly complex set of problems for grieving families. In the worst scenarios, matters such as undue influence have to be addressed in probate court.

Detroit-area residents may be interested in a will dispute involving tens of thousands of dollars that surrogate family members say were wrongfully bequeathed to a man who was named a sole beneficiary in a woman's will. In a second will that her friends and surrogate family found dubious, an 89-year-old woman who died in 2007 supposedly left $70,000 to a man she apparently didn't like or trust.

The 77-year-old man is a former police officer and son of a man the deceased woman dated about 60 years ago. The named beneficiary had been known to hound the woman for money, according to the woman's family members. In 2011, her surrogate family sued the former police officer in probate court, and the judge dismissed the second will.

Incidentally, both wills were drafted by the same attorney (not affiliated with this firm), and it was also revealed that the attorney and the former officer were drinking pals.

The judge upheld the first will, which names several of the deceased woman's longtime friends as beneficiaries.

The police officer of 33 years has chosen to appeal the ruling, and the appeal is now being heard in a state appeals court. The outcome remains to be seen, but it would appear that the original will will stand.

Fortunately, not every probate case involves this kind of contention, but when disputes do arise, it's a good idea to have a legal advocate on your side to protect your and your family's best interests.

Source: Eagle-Tribune, "Court to decide case without hearing from ex-police officer," Jill Harmacinski, April 3, 2013

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