Any beneficiary has the legal right to contest a will or trust executed in Minnesota or anywhere else in the U.S. When heirs believe the deceased intended to leave them a particular asset or property, they may initiate a dispute through the probate court. To succeed, however, an individual must show that the deceased was under the influence of another or lacked the mental capacity to create a valid trust or will.
When a wealthy and retired executive from the aerospace industry passed away, his adult children disputed his estate in probate court after finding themselves left without the assets they expected to receive. According to NBC 7 News, the heirs allege that his much younger third wife duped him into leaving her his entire estate, including a house in a gated community worth $3.3 million. Claiming that their father was systematically isolated, depressed and worn out, the heirs allege that his young wife took advantage of him during a period when he was extremely vulnerable.
Alleging undue influence
It is not uncommon for heirs to raise concerns that a much younger and attractive woman enticed an older man into signing away his property. Oftentimes, however, a genuine relationship exists in which a younger spouse assists an older spouse with his or her affairs, medication and health care matters.
Evidence of intimidation, coercion, threats or manipulation may help to prove that the deceased signed documents while under someone else’s undue influence. Exercising undue influence may include using affection to influence a testator, as noted by the American Bar Association.
The issue of mental capacity
The probate court will usually look to the deceased’s mental capacity at the time that he or she signed the document. When testators understand the nature of their property and know to whom they wish to pass it on, it may prove sufficient capacity for creating a will.
Generally, when individuals display uncertainty deciding whom to pass their property on to, heirs may view their mental capacity as insufficient to execute a valid will. The probate process may then allow beneficiaries to raise questions about an estate’s distribution.