If a person believes that a loved one’s last will and testament was prepared improperly and does not reflect the testator’s wishes for some reason, that will could be contested. A person who contests a will must have both standing and sufficient grounds. The will must be contested in accordance with Michigan law, including filing the claim within a certain time frame.

Standing

A family member who would have been eligible to inherit a portion of the decedent’s estate if the decedent had died without a will has standing even if the person is not in the will. Alternately, a person who is not an intestate heir has standing if they are named in the current will or a previous will. Certain entities, such as charities, could also have standing.

Sufficient grounds

Courts proceed from the assumption that a will is valid, so it is necessary to prove the grounds on which the will is contested. A will contest may be successful if fraud is involved. Wills may also be contested if family members believe the decedent was unduly influenced. This could be the case if someone isolated the decedent from family members and exerted some control over the individual. A will might be contested if the decedent was not mentally competent at the time of the will’s preparation. Medical records could support this claim. Additionally, a will could be contested if there are legal formalities that were not observed. This can happen with do-it-yourself wills, where it may be easy to overlook certain technicalities. Preparing a do-it-yourself will could also mean that the decedent did not recognize and address potential problems with the plan.

An attorney might recognize those problems and be able to make suggestions about how to resolve them. Working with an attorney to prepare an estate plan might also prevent other issues that could mean problems later. For example, leaving an inheritance to a loved one with special needs could make that person ineligible for government benefits. An attorney might help in preparing a special needs trust.