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Contesting wills and trusts

A Michigan resident making plans for how their estate will be handled after their death may be concerned about limiting the potential for any challenges to the plan. Although such action occurs after the maker's death, a contest can result in a different outcome than he or she had desired. In reducing this risk, it is important to understand what a contest is and the circumstances under which it could be an issue.

A contest is essentially an objection to the validity of a trust or a will. In successful cases, the existing document may be invalidated. This is equivalent to an individual not creating a will or trust in the first place, leaving the decisions about estate administration in the hands of the court instead. The outcome in such a case could be significantly different than planned.

To contest a will or trust, an individual must have the legal standing to do so. A party to such a suit must be personally affected by the results. Those who may have grounds for such a claim include family members who would be considered as legal heirs if a trust or will had not been created. These may include disinherited or disadvantaged individuals who have been omitted from a will or trust. Similarly, individuals or charities listed in a previous will and omitted in a later will or receiving significantly less benefits in a later will might have grounds for legal action.

A will or trust may be legally contested if it wasn't signed according to state law, if the individual creating it lacked the capacity to do so or was unduly influenced while creating it, or if the document was procured fraudulently. Legal assistance in creating a document may be important for ensuring its validity and avoiding contests. Additionally, it is important to keep plans updated to account for changes in circumstances.

Source: Wealth Management, "Will and Trust Contests 101", December 28, 2014

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