Contesting A Will In Minnesota | MN Probate Law

how do i get letters testamentaryFor those who spend the time and energy drafting wills and estate plans, the goal is obviously to ensure that your wishes are respected once you’re gone. Going to this trouble is supposed to ensure that things go smoothly when it’s time to distribute your assets to heirs. Though this is true most of the time, there are circumstances in which things don’t go perfectly to plan. In cases where fraud may have happened or an heir has especially hurt feelings, it’s possible that the will could be challenged in probate court. To find out more about how contesting a will works, keep reading.

Why?

The good news, at least for those drafting the will, is that wills are official legal documents and are thus not easily ignored. Simply disliking the results of a will or feeling you didn’t get a fair shake isn’t enough to justify a valid challenge to a will. Wills can be contested for a variety of valid reasons and these include things like fraud, duress, undue influence, mental incapacity, improper witnessing and the existence of ambiguous language. A will contest requires the existence of a valid legal question about the document itself or the process by which it was created, sour grapes aren’t sufficient.

Who?

Can anyone challenge a will? Thankfully, no. Probate law says that wills can only be challenged by those with proper standing, meaning heirs and other beneficiaries. A person needs to be mentioned in the current will or some previous version of the will. Interestingly, someone mentioned in a will for the purpose of being disinherited is enough to give that person the standing to raise a challenge. These rules mean that those who can bring a challenge are almost always spouses or children of the person who crafted the will.

When?

How long does an heir have to contest a will? The answer varies depending on your location, as each state puts a different spin on its probate rules. In Minnesota, Section 524.3-109 of the Probate Code says that a person has one year after the date of death of file challenges.

Contesting A Will In Minnesota | How?

If it turns out that you have standing to contest the will and have legitimate grounds to do so, the next step is to file a petition with the probate court in which the will has been entered into, objecting to its validity. All heirs and beneficiaries of the estate will need to be informed of the challenge, giving them an opportunity to intervene should they choose to do so. After everyone is on notice, it’ll be time to gather information from other parties, put forward your arguments and lay out your justifications for invalidity. If, after that, you aren’t able to negotiate a mutually agreeable settlement to the dispute, the matter will need to be decided by a probate judge.

Though contesting a will is clearly possible, it’s important to understand that doing so isn’t easy or fast. Any challenge will need to be based on valid grounds, not just displeasure with the disposition of an estate. Even then, victory is not assured and you’ll likely spend a good deal of time and money fighting it out. Just something to keep in mind before heading off down the road of a will contest.

Minnesota Probate Lawyers

An experienced Minnesota estate planning lawyer can help walk you through the complicated process of establishing a workable estate plan. For more information on estate planning in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contact Joseph M. Flanders of Flanders Law Firm at (612) 424-0398.
Source:  “What Are the Grounds for Contesting a Will?,” by Julie Garber, published at TheBalance.com.

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