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Probate litigation: Things to know re last will and testaments

Many Michigan families include adult children who have grown up expecting to inherit a portion or all of their parent’s estate. In some cases, a son or daughter has seen a last will and testament signed by a parent, and perhaps, has even discussed such issues at length with the parent who signed the will. Serious legal complications can arise if a parent dies and the expectant heir learns that another will was supposedly signed just before death, and he or she is no longer receiving an inheritance. Such situations often lead to probate litigation.

It is important to remember that just because a new will was signed before an estate owner died, it does not necessarily mean the will is valid. A person signing a will (or any other estate planning document) must be of sound mind at the time. Therefore, if an adult child of the decedent believes his or her parent was under duress or mentally impaired when the second will was signed, he or she may contest it in court.

If there was a preexisting will, and a new one seems to contradict the terms in the first one, it may suggest that something was askew when the second will was signed. It can be difficult, however, to prove that a parent was not of sound mind or that someone exerted undue influence upon him or her to create a new will that is vastly different from the original.

It is also possible that someone trying to get hold of assets to which he or she is not entitled might forge a last will and testament in an attempt to commit fraud. Any Michigan resident facing probate litigation issues is wise to seek support from an experienced estate law attorney to help determine a best course of action. Such cases can be highly emotionally charged as well, which is another good reason to rely on informed legal representation in court.