A decedent’s will normally determines who inherits the decedent’s probate estate. However, for a variety of reasons, a will can be set aside by the Court:
Lack of Capacity
A will can be voided by the Court if the testator (will maker) did not have sufficient mental capacity to execute a will under Minnesota law. In some cases it is obvious the testator lacked capacity. For example, the testator may have suffered from severe dementia at the time the will was signed. On other occasions it is not as clear. Most attorneys drafting a will testify with considerable confidence that the testator, even if mildly impaired, understood what they owned and who they wanted to inherit their assets. It requires an experienced attorney to assess the merits of a case after reviewing medical records, interviewing witnesses, and inspecting the file of the attorney who drafted the will.
Undue Influence, Fraud, or Coercion
A will can be voided by the Court if it is determined that its contents do not reflect the wishes of the testator and instead reflect the wishes of another person. Undue influence can be very difficult to prove as the person exercising the influence often exerts it in secret. The attorney presenting the case must be skilled at developing witness testimony and a theory of the case which will convince a judge the will should be set aside.
Forgery or Improper Execution
A will can be voided by the Court if the testator’s signature has been forged or the testator’s signature was not properly witnessed. Similarly, if any portion of a will has been altered or replaced after its execution, the Court may set aside the will.
Occasionally a will executed with sufficient mental capacity and free from any undue influence will nevertheless be ambiguous or unclear in its intent. The Court will not declare the will void, but will hear arguments from competing parties about the testator’s intent.
Jim Crist has been trying contested will cases for over 25 years. An experienced will contest lawyer understands that a will is presumed by Minnesota law to be valid unless it can be proved otherwise by clear and convincing evidence in court. Jim has represented clients contesting wills and clients defending wills. His experience has provided him with valuable insights necessary to assess the likelihood of a will surviving the scrutiny of a will contest.
Call Jim Crist to discuss your case: 612-922-2260