Your last will and testament or “will” is a part of your estate plan which permits you set out the way in which you want your property to be distributed and have other matters handled when you pass away.  Ideally, what you have said in your will is going to be easily understood and accepted by your loved ones.  However, without careful planning, there can be issues which could tie your estate up in court.  The good news is that there are steps you can take to help ensure you have an ironclad will.

No-Contest Clauses

Michigan law allows someone who is creating a will to include a no-contest or “in terrorem” clause.  This clause basically says that any beneficiary who tries to challenge your will may be disinherited.  Including this language can help deter dissatisfied heirs from making legal contests regarding their bequests.  However, if the court believes you did not have the mental capacity to execute your will or it was made under the undue influence of another, it could find part or all of it to be invalid.   If this were to occur, your estate could end up passing to your heirs according to Michigan law rather than your wishes.

Demonstrating Capacity

If there is a question as to your capacity, one way to prevent your will from being contested on the basis that you lacked capacity is by seeing your doctor near the time you execute the will and obtaining evidence regarding your mental health.  For instance, you could get an opinion letter from your physician and copies of any recent relevant cognitive testing you may have had.  You could also ask to have specific competency evaluations performed.  Once you have your medical documentation, you should provide copies to a trusted loved one and store another with your will.

Undue Influence

Another circumstance which may lead to your will being challenged is when it appears it was entered into under the undue influence of another person.  When there are indications that you were subjected to intense manipulation or pressure to include specific terms in your will, the court could decide that your will is not valid.  If you suspect an heir will raise an undue influence claim against a particular person, make sure that the suspected individual is not present during your meetings with your estate planning attorney or when you execute the will.


Wills can be contested on the basis that they were executed incorrectly.   As with wills made without capacity or under undue influence, a will which was not executed in accordance with Michigan law may be held invalid by a court.  In order to avoid this outcome, you need to be certain you follow Michigan’s requirements at the time you execute your will.

Discuss Your Choices With Loved Ones

A good way to keep heirs from legally challenging your will is to explain your choices to them near the time you sign it.  When your potential beneficiaries are told directly why certain decisions have been made, it can help resolve any doubts and prevent unnecessary litigation.  This can also help allay concerns regarding issues such as your capacity and undue influence. 

The most important thing you can do when drafting a will is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you anticipate issues and create a comprehensive document. We have extensive experience assisting clients in developing wills which support their final wishes.  Please contact us online or by phone if we may be of assistance.

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