Michigan Court of Appeals Invalidates a Will Naming a Guardian as the Sole Beneficiary

It is common for seniors to establish very close relationships with caretakers or guardians, and they may wish to make provisions for them in their wills. However, there are situations where a court may find that a guardian overstepped their bounds and exerted undue influence.

The Michigan court of appeals recently upheld a ruling by a probate court invalidating a will in which an 85 year old resident of St. Clair county left all of her assets to her guardian, an employee of an assisted living facility. Though there was evidence that the two individuals had a close relationship, the situation reflected undue influence and impropriety.

The guardian had an inappropriate role in drafting the will

Part of what makes this case distinct is the fact the guardian had an active role in drafting a will that named herself as the sole beneficiary. The senior in her care already had a valid will naming several charities as beneficiaries.

A breach of fiduciary duty

As a guardian, an individual owes a fiduciary to duty to the person that he or she must care for. A guardian cannot supplant an individual’s financial interests with his or her own. In this case, it appeared that the guardian took advantage of her position for financial gain.

Ultimately, a person who needs a guardian may lack capacity to execute a will. The appeals court ruled that the St. Clair senior did not have capacity to execute her will and her guardian used the guardianship for personal enrichment.