When Can I Challenge A Will Or Trust In Michigan?

At Gormley and Johnson Law Offices, PLC, we represent clients in Fowlerville, Brighton and the surrounding areas in a broad range of probate administration matters, including will contests and challenges to trusts. We blend decades of estate planning knowledge with close, personalized attention.

We also work closely with individuals to craft comprehensive estate plans that clearly outline their wishes, adhere to the latest regulations in Michigan, and help to prevent your loved ones from being embroiled in a will- or trust-contest lawsuit in the future.

Wills aren’t the only estate planning documents that can be challenged. Beneficiaries in Michigan can take legal action against trustees who failed to properly manage the trust’s property.

What Are The Rules For Contesting A Will Or A Trust?

To challenge a will or a trust, you generally must be a named beneficiary in the will or trust. If the deceased did not have a will or trust at the time of death, you may also contest the probate proceedings, if you would have been a beneficiary. This typically applies to spouses or children of the deceased.

Once standing is demonstrated, there are several grounds where an individual can challenge the validity of a will:

  • Testamentary capacity: Testamentary capacity can apply to a couple of situations. An individual must be at least 18 when the will is signed for the will to be valid legally. A lack of testamentary capacity for legal adults may be demonstrated if they were suffering from reduced mental capacity or substance abuse at the time of creation.
  • Fraud and forgery: Bad actors may attempt to use fraud forgery to create a falsified will or trust. If fraud or forgery are proven, the will or trust is not valid.
  • Undue influence: In other circumstances, an individual may manipulate the deceased in order to receive more or all of the property in the will than they otherwise would have obtained. Because of the undue influence, the deceased is seen to have not acted in free will.
  • Multiple wills: It is not uncommon for an individual to pass away without telling loved ones of changes to their estate documents. If multiple legally valid wills or trusts are discovered, the most recent document will be used during probate when administering the estate.

The bottom line is that, when contesting a will or a trust, you are not only challenging the will or trust itself. You are also taking legal action against the underlying actions of the individual involved with administration, including but not limited to:

  • No accounting

  • Self-dealings

  • Breaches of fiduciary duty

  • Failures to act

Terror Clauses Can Complicate A Will Contest

Terror clauses may be included in both wills or trust as a tool to prevent people from mounting a formal challenge. Typically, the terror clause states that if an individual contests a will or trust, they will inherit nothing rather than what they would have normally inherited if they had not contested the document.

Some people are understandably scared to challenge a will or trust. They worry that they will nullify their entire inheritance.

However, terror clauses are not triggered when challenging the administration executed by a personal representative or trustee. The terror clause is typically only triggered if you challenge the actual creation of the underlying document and lose. For example, if you challenge a will or trust due to undue influence and are successful, then the terror clause will not be triggered.

We will work with you to analyze the situation and to determine whether a terror clause puts your inheritance at risk.

Contact Our Fowlerville Office Today

For more information about contesting a will or a trust, our services or to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation, please call 517-219-9301. You may also use our online contact form to get in touch with our lawyers.