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Probate litigation is seldom simple

Many people prepare wills and trusts during their lifetime to help ensure their wishes are adhered to following their death. Michigan courts generally try to uphold the wishes of a decedent outlined in valid trust documents and last wills and testaments.

Competency is one of the requirements for any legal document to be valid. When changes are made to estate planning documents and the person’s mental competency comes into question, potential heirs will sometimes pursue probate litigation.

In a recent case, there are a number of parties who are contesting the last will and trust of a deceased wealthy woman. Her estate is estimated to be worth $1.8 million. In previous versions of her will, those seeking to invalidate her last will and trust were named as beneficiaries of the estate but were omitted in the latest version of these documents.

The woman, who died in December at the age of 94, was diagnosed with “moderate dementia” in 2008. Medical records being reviewed by the court indicate the woman had been struggling with a mental impairment for some time.

At issue is the woman’s mental competency at the time changes were made to her will. Beneficiaries challenging the deceased woman’s wishes also assert the woman was unduly influenced by the police officer to whom the bulk of her estate was left. The police officer denies any wrongdoing in this case.

When a person is suffering from a mental impairment, he or she can sometimes be a target for unscrupulous people. Family members who are concerned their loved one is being financially exploited should seek help. If it isn’t discovered until after a loved one’s passing, an experienced estate planning attorney may be able to help them understand their legal rights.

Source:, “Reports: Elderly woman in estate dispute had dementia,” Elizabeth Dinan, July 28, 2013

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