Wills are contested in Minnesota and around the country for many reasons. Parties who contest wills may be beneficiaries who are unhappy with what they will receive, or they could allege that the decedent was under duress or lacked mental capacity when they wrote the document. Whatever the reasons for contesting a will may be, one of the first steps involved is identifying all of the interested parties.
Family members and beneficiaries
This is important because interested parties must be informed that the will is being contested so they have an opportunity to appear in probate court and take part in the proceedings. Interested parties may include all of the decedent’s family members whether or not they are beneficiaries, any beneficiaries listed in the will, and the beneficiaries listed in any previous wills written by the decedent.
The burden of proof
In Minnesota, only individuals who are named as beneficiaries or would have inherited if the decedent had died intestate have standing to challenge a will. Challenges are filed in probate court, and the burden is on the petitioners to prove their claims. Before hearing these arguments, the court first establishes that the will meets the standards for probate.
Attorneys could suggest strategies that allow estates to avoid the public and time-consuming probate process. In addition to avoiding probate litigation that can drive families apart, placing assets into trusts provides individuals with a great deal more control over how their property will be distributed. Trusts could ensure that individuals who have run into trouble with drugs or alcohol or have acted recklessly with money in the past do not receive large lump sums, and they could also be used to prevent heirs from losing access to government programs like Medicare.