When someone who lives in Michigan dies, the property that they own will become their estate. Michigan probate laws will apply to the succession of their property. For example, when someone dies without a will, state law determines who inherits what from their estate.
Many people will die with estate planning documents in place, such as wills and trusts. Typically, those documents will guide the probate process. However, sometimes family members will question the validity or legality of those documents. Other times, they may have concerns about the estate administration process.
There are numerous scenarios in which someone in Michigan might initiate probate litigation, but the three below are among the most common.
Concerns about the documents
Perhaps you believe that the testator had dementia already when they drafted their will, or maybe you believe that someone exerted undue influence and pressured them into making changes. Concerns about fraud can also be valid reason to challenge someone’s will in probate court.
If a judge agrees with your claims, they may either treat the estate as though the individual died without a will by applying intestate succession laws or may use an older version of the estate plan to guide that process.
Concerns about the executor
The executor or personal representative responsible for overseeing probate proceedings and distributing assets is in a position of trust and authority. Sadly, not everyone will live up to that role.
Occasionally, due to inaction, incompetence or embezzlement, family members will choose to challenge the executor or representative or the actions that they have taken during estate administration. Doing so can potentially preserve estate assets or at least minimize the damage caused by someone’s corruption or incompetence.
Questions about legality
Sometimes, family members understand that the documents do reflect someone’s wishes, but they also believe that the terms set in the papers are violation of their rights. Those who have recently lost a spouse may have crowns to initiate probate litigation. They can challenge the estate plan that disinherits them or leaves them less than what they have a statutory right to receive from the estate.
Comparing your situation to other scenarios that lead to estate litigation can help you decide if going to court is the best solution in your case.