There are a number of grounds on which to challenge a Will. Often times, individuals who are unhappy with a Will’s disposition seek to challenge it on procedural grounds, arguing that it was not executed in accordance with Michigan’s Wills Act.  In other instances, a Will can be challenged if it is believed that the testator didn’t have sufficient mental capacity at the time the Will was executed. However, there is another form of Will contest that is less commonly used but can be effective in invalidating a Will.  In Michigan, a Will can be challenged on the grounds that the testator was suffering from an insane delusion at the time the Will was executed.  An insane delusion occurs when “a person persistently believes supposed facts which have no real existence and so believes…against all evidence…without any foundation or reason for the belief.” So for example, if a testator believes that his family is made up of witches, as was the case in an old Indiana Supreme Court decision, the Will can be set aside provided that this belief was the basis for the Will’s disposition of property.  Courts will only set aside the portions of the Will that are a result of the insane delusion; often times this can result in the entire Will being invalidated.

Insane Delusion

An insane delusion should not be confused with a mistake of fact. If a testator’s mistaken belief is capable of being corrected by being told the truth, then there is no insane delusion. For example, if a daughter lies and tells her father that his son has been stealing from him and the father disinherits the son, the Will may be invalidated for fraud but not for an insane delusion.  A testator only suffers from an insane delusion where his or her belief cannot be corrected no matter how much information is received.

Insane Delusion: Estate of Sarras

The Michigan Court of Appeals addressed a claim of insane delusion in the Matter of Estate of Sarras. In Sarras, the testator disinherited his family members in favor of a friend because he believed that his family had neglected him throughout his life. The family sought to set aside the Will, arguing that the testator’s belief that he had been neglected was the result of an insane delusion, as they claimed they had cared for him. The court held that there was no insane delusion, because there was evidence to suggest that the testator hadn’t been invited to certain family gatherings.  The court stated that “there must be a great deal of proof that the suspicions or belief of a testator are completely unfounded before they can be held to be an insane delusion…a jury may not reject a will merely because the jurors disapprove of the testator’s motives or consider his distribution unfair or unreasonable.” Although the court disagreed with the testator’s reasoning for disinheriting his family, because there was at least some evidence to support his belief of neglect, there was no insane delusion and thus the Will was valid.

Contact The Probate Pro for more information about Will contests or any other probate matter.