What do you do when you want to contest a will? There are two main things you need to be sure of before doing so, you must have a legal, valid reason, and you must have standing to contest the will aka be an interested party – a beneficiary of the will or a person who would have inherited if the deceased had died without a will (intestate.)
Proving that a will is invalid can be pricey, lengthy, and difficult. I would first gather as much evidence best you can and contact a lawyer. You cannot challenge a will just because you don’t particularly like it. There are really only four legitimate reasons you can contest a will.
- The Will Didn’t Follow the Formalities of Michigan Law
Usually, Michigan has very specific and clear rules about what makes a will valid. Two witnesses must be present and sign the will, the will be dated and signed, with certain language that attests to the validity of the will. If there are any modifications/updates made, that will also need two witnesses ’ signatures. If you do make modifications, it’s also a good idea to state that this new will is intended to trump and/or void the pre-modified one.
- Lack of Testamentary Capacity / Sufficient Mental Capacity
The testator must be of sound mind when the will is being created and they must fully understand the consequences of making a will. The extent and value of their property, how and who it will be distributed to also must be understood. This usually comes up when the testator suffered from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. But it can also be brought up on the basis of drug use or insanity. This can be tricky to prove. A person could have suffered from bouts of dementia for weeks or even months but was lucid and experiencing clarity at the time the will was made, courts will find that capacity existed and the will valid. Proving lack of capacity will require more immediate evidence, such as credible witnesses, well-qualified experts, even autopsy reports.
- Under Undue Influence
This means the testator was being manipulated or coerced by a person to succumb to their terms, such as leaving that person a substantially larger share of the estate. This can be very hard to prove in court because there is usually a lack of direct evidence such as eyewitnesses. This can be done by anyone who is in a position to take advantage of someone’s vulnerability. Even by, and more often than you would think, caretakers.
- Fraud or Forgery
This will normally go hand in hand with testamentary capacity and undue influence. Forged is self-explanatory. Fraudulent wills are made when the testator is tricked into signing. Such as, they are told it’s a different document, like a POA. Or the testator is told that the will states one thing when it actually states something totally different.
As I mentioned before, contesting a will is generally a difficult and complicated process. You must be able to prove the will is an invalid document. The best thing you can do when thinking about contesting a will is to contact an experienced legal professional to guide you through the process.