Many pop culture references made it seem that will contests are aggravated in nature and have effects on the family of those involved. In reality, it’s a legal interest, not personal. If you suspect the will your loved one left is not what they intended it to be, you may have grounds to contest their will. Though your loved one has a document that says how to disperse their property after death, contesting a will simply means that you are concerned about the validity of the document. If this happens and is left unchanged, you believe their wishes are not being carried out. Although this is somewhat rare, it is certainly possible, but before you can contest the will, you must meet certain qualifications.
In the state of Michigan, you must be a beneficiary of the will, if there is a will, or an individual who would have inherited if the deceased did not have a will when they died. These titles usually apply to family members such as spouses, children, parents, etc. It should be noted that even though most wills have a clause in them that specifically states that anyone who contests the will is immediately unable to inherit, Michigan law states that a no-contest clause is not enacted if there are legitimate grounds for contesting the will.
Reasons To Contest a Will in Michigan
Once you verify that you have the legal standing necessary to contest a will, you need to provide evidence to substantiate your claim. While there are many reasons you could contest a will, the most common reasons are the belief that the testator (the person to whom the will belongs) was not of sound mind when they wrote it, the belief that the testator was unduly influenced by someone, the belief that the document was not created properly, fraud, or a more recent will.
Lack of Capacity
Lack of capacity means the testator was not of sound mind when they signed the will. This claim generally has to be substantiated by a medical expert and relevant medical documentation. The court is only interested in the testator having sufficient mental capacity at the time of signing, not the time of death.
This means that a beneficiary pressured the testator into signing the will. The type and manner of pressure could be many things such as having the testator sign the document without them knowing it was a will, threatening them, the testator being told the will states one thing when it in fact states another, the testator drafting the will while acting on false information or being threatened, etc. Any of these things could potentially invalidate the will.
The law dictates that a will must be drafted by following certain procedures like having the signing of the document by the testator witnessed and having the witnesses (who themselves cannot be beneficiaries) also sign the will. If a will is not drafted as the law states it must be, that document can be considered invalid.
Fraud or a More Recent Will
If the document can be proven to be false, it is no longer considered valid. If the deceased drafted another will after the creation of the first, the most recent is the valid one, insofar as it was created properly and in accordance with the law. Additionally, if the language in a will is confusing and/or unclear to the point of being perceived to have multiple meanings, beneficiaries may bring the document to a Michigan probate court in order to have the meaning clarified.
How to Contest a Will in Michigan
Not just any interested person can contest a will. First, you must look at the legal grounds for the contest. These grounds typically include lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, fraud, mistake, duress, or improper execution of the will. Then you should order an attorney and file an order to contest. Aftering serving notice to all the parties (including the executor, beneficiaries, or personal representative), you will gather evidence, attend court hearings, go through mediation or a settlement, and if an agreement cannot be reached, go to trial.
Considering Contesting a Will
Since contesting a will in Michigan is generally a difficult and complicated process, you will want to make sure you have as much documentation as possible. It can also be an expensive process, so you will want to undertake the process with an experienced probate attorney who can ensure that the proceedings go as smoothly and quickly as possible.