The legal grounds for contesting a will or trust in Minnesota

A will or trust will not be declared invalid just because a beneficiary does not like the terms

People who are fortunate enough to be able to provide a legacy for loved ones have had to work hard to do so throughout their lives. Helping younger generations attend college, buy a home, or otherwise help out with life's expenses can be a rewarding end to a lifetime's worth of effort. That is why circumstances that cast doubt into a will or trust are so devastating to family members and beneficiaries, many of whom may have been relying on an inheritance. For vulnerable people at the end of life, there is little worse than having one's wishes altered to suit selfish needs.

Unfortunately, however, fraud and duress do occur, especially for wealthy but vulnerable elders. Dementia, Alzheimer's disease, mental incapacity, and diminished financial capabilities can lead a person at the end of life to change a will or trust without fully realizing the consequences. However, in order to render a will legally invalid, there must be specific legal grounds on which to do so.

Potential beneficiaries may contest a will based on the following:

  • Fraud
  • Duress or undue influence
  • Mental incapacity
  • A more recent will
  • An improperly witnessed and signed will
  • Ambiguous language

Fraud involves forging a signature or portion of the will or trust. Undue influence occurs when a trusted caretaker or family member forces a person to change an estate plan. This can occur if a caretaker threatens to leave the vulnerable person without care unless he or she leaves the caretaker an inheritance, for example. Fraud and undue influence are the most well-known methods of contesting a will; in practice, however, these methods require extensive evidence and discovery to be successful.

Other potential legal grounds involve more technical requirements. In order to create a valid will the creator of the will must understand finances and the consequences of his or her decisions. A person who is incapable of understanding what he or she is doing when creating an estate plan does not have the legal means of creating a valid will. Finally, in order to avoid issues of fraud and undue influence, Minnesota law requires witnesses for a will to be valid. If witnesses' signatures are forged, or there were no witnesses present at the signing, the will is invalid. A probate court will also uphold only the most recent, valid will in existence.

In addition to having legal grounds to contest a will or trust, the plaintiff in a will contest must also have legal standing. This is a legal term that describes who has the right to bring a lawsuit. In a will contest, legal heirs, meaning people who would have inherited under the law if not for a will, can contest a will in probate.

Consult an experienced probate attorney

Contesting a will can be a difficult task. Minnesota residents who believe a will or trust is invalid should contact the experienced attorneys at Ryan & Grinde, LTD., to discuss their legal options.

Keywords: Estate planning, will contest, fraud, undue influence, mental incapacity