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Reasons to Contest a Will

Reasons to Contest a Will

Even if your loved one left a last will and testament behind, there may be instances in which it can be challenged. For instance, if your father had dementia and added his second wife’s name to a bank account intended for the family, or your mother changed her will to omit you in favor of your sibling, you might have grounds to contest a will.

Another scenario that can lead to challenging a will is one where a caregiver or “friend” of the decedent ends up getting everything and the family receives nothing. If legal grounds exist to dispute the validity of the will, a court may treat the estate as if your loved one died intestate, reinstate a prior will, or invalidate the specific portion of the will that has successfully been contested.

Reasons to Contest a Will

Under Michigan law, there are several grounds for challenging a will. If you have a legal interest in your loved one’s estate, you may be entitled to contest their will if certain circumstances exist. For example, if you were disinherited or believe you should have received a larger portion of the estate than the decedent left you in their will, you may be able to contest the will. In some cases, there may be multiple wills — and the beneficiaries may disagree as to which one is valid.

The primary reasons a will in Michigan might be challenged or contested include the following:

The petitioner has the burden of proof when challenging a will. In other words, they must raise sufficient evidence to persuade the court that the will in its current form does not match the decedent’s intent. Notably, even if there is a no contest clause in the will, Michigan law states that it will not be enforced if there is probable cause to contest the will.

Challenging an Account of Convenience

An account of convenience is similar to a power of attorney. In some cases, older adults or individuals with dementia might set up such a joint account to allow another person to use the funds in it for the owner’s benefit. These types of accounts are often used for financial management purposes, to pay bills, and run errands. They might also be used as a “poor man’s will” to help save costs.

If the owner of the account didn’t mean for the joint owner to keep the assets in it after their passing — and only intended the joint name to be added as a matter of convenience — a court may order that the asset be turned over to the estate. This can also apply to brokerage accounts, stocks, and other financial investments. Importantly, the account must reflect the intent of the person who added the name at the time the account was created, rather than after the fact.

What is the Legal Process to Contest a Will in Michigan?

Contesting a will can be a complex and lengthy legal process — but if you have legal standing and can establish grounds that the will should be rendered invalid, you may be entitled to petition the probate court in the appropriate county. A party who has an interest in the probate proceedings can either object to the will being probated or dispute the legitimacy of the will. However, it’s crucial to understand that you only have a limited amount of time to challenge a will in Michigan.

There is no set statute of limitations to challenge a will if the proceedings are informal, with some exceptions. In the event formal probate proceedings have been commenced, a petitioner must raise their objection before the admission of the will. Once a formal order of testacy has been entered validating the will, there is a 21-day appeal period. After this time expires, any challenge to the will is typically barred, absent special circumstances.

Contact an Experienced Michigan Probate Attorney

If you have valid grounds to challenge your loved one’s will, it’s crucial to have a skilled attorney by your side who can assist you with navigating the legal process. The knowledgeable estate and probate attorneys at Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras can evaluate your claim and discuss your legal rights and remedies. Schedule a consultation today by calling (248) 213-9514 in Michigan or (941) 222-2199 in Florida to learn how we can assist you.

This article was provided by Don L. Rosenberg, Co-Founder of the Law Firm of Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras, one of Michigan’s TOP Elder Law & Estate Planning Law Firms.  Attorney Rosenberg and his firm are Members of the National ElderCare Matters Alliance and have a Featured Listing on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources to help families plan for and deal with the issues of Aging.


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Reasons to Contest a Will was last modified: January 5th, 2023 by Don Rosenberg
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