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Standing in Michigan will contests

When someone dies and leaves a will that outlines how they want their assets to be distributed and the beneficiaries that should receive them, Michigan courts will generally accept the document as representing the decedent’s wishes. In most cases, the probate court will validate a will once it has been filed. However, there are some cases in which someone will file a challenge to the will. A will contest involves questions of standing for both the individual filing the objection and the parties interested in the will.

What is standing in a will contest?

Standing refers to the legal authority to challenge or object to a will based on a legal interest you have in its outcome. For a person to file a will challenge in the probate court, they must be someone who stands to receive less in the contested will than they would from a previously written will or under the state’s intestacy laws. Besides the person filing the will, other interested parties have standing and must be identified. The person filing the will contest must notify the interested parties about the action so they have a chance to participate in the litigation.

Who are interested parties to a will?

The following are the interested parties in a will contest:

  • The decedent’s surviving family members even if they aren’t named beneficiaries in the contested will
  • All individuals and entities named as beneficiaries in the contested will
  • All individuals and entities named as beneficiaries in a previously written will

The claimant must notify each of the interested parties about the will contest to give them the chance to participate in the litigation.

If a will contest is filed, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the court will invalidate it. Instead, the judge will review the evidence and the will to determine whether it meets Michigan’s legal requirements. If a codicil is found to be invalid, the court could disregard that portion while validating the remainder of the will. If the court finds the entire will is invalid, a previously written will could be validated in its place. If there ‘isn’t a previous will, the court could order the assets to be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws.