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Probate litigation focuses on undue influence, competency

When many people have an estate plan drafted they name charities as beneficiaries. This can happen for any number of reasons, but in many situations this is a popular option for people who do not have any close family or friends as potential heirs to the estate in question. What some of our Michigan readers may not realize, however, if that if any type of probate litigation arises due to questions surrounding bequests to charities a state's Attorney General may have grounds to get involved.

That is what has occurred in the aftermath of the death of a 93-year-old woman who died with an estate valued at approximately $1.8 million. According to the reports, the Attorney General's office in the state where the woman died has entered an appearance in the probate of the woman's will. There appears to be more than a few serious concerns in the case.

First, the woman had reportedly originally named two medical centers as the primary beneficiaries in a will signed in 2009. The woman later developed dementia. However, that did not stop a change in her estate plan. In 2012, the year in which the woman died, she executed a new will that named one man, a local police sergeant, as the primary beneficiary and left only $25,000 apiece to the medical centers she had previously named as beneficiaries.

Now, the case is in probate court where the main contention is that the police sergeant exerted undue influence over the elderly women. Another point in contention is that the women, suffering from dementia, was not competent to execute a new will.

This case is a prime example of some of the issues that can come up in a contested estate. It also demonstrates how valuable a comprehensive estate plan - one not shrouded in mystery but openly discussed with beneficiaries - can be.

Source: Seacoastonline, "AG files as party in dispute over Webber will," Elizabeth Dinan, Sept. 25, 2013

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