The seeds for probate litigation are sometimes planted with the drafting of wills. The Michigan supreme court recently ruled on the validity of a will and trust prepared by the attorney who was also the recipient of most of his client's estate.
Having a valid will and ensuring access to important estate and financial documents is an important part of estate planning. When this does not occur, surviving heirs face numerous obstacles. But, there are ways to climb out of this estate hole if parents or family members do not have a will or provide this access.
The renowned performer Prince died without leaving a will. The battle among heirs and others is ongoing in Minnesota but has estate planning lessons for Michigan families who want their wishes and legacies preserved after they die.
Keeping wills locked away in a strongbox and forgotten may have unintended consequences. These documents must reflect current circumstances.
Like oral contracts, verbal wills may not be worth the paper they are written on. Having a written will is important to assure that major assets, like the house, go to intended heirs.
Couples who are in an unmarried relationship need to engage in additional estate planning and assure they have a valid will to assure that their assets and property are distributed after their death as they intended. Otherwise, the property may go to a family member or other person challenging a will.
End-of-life decisions are an unfortunate but necessary part of long-term planning. Like wills, these plans should be considered as early as possible. A living will is one mechanism used to declare these intentions.
Poor estate planning can lead to acrimony among relatives. A legal battle over the fortune of a deceased Baltimore bakery magnate involves allegations that cash was stolen from an office safe and safety deposit box, use of phony trusts, bad seafood and arguments in restaurants.
Litigation can outlive a person who made a will. In a Michigan will contest, a beneficiary can file a legal challenge to the will's validity. These challenges can take place before probate or after probate opens.