December 5, 2011
Authored by: Luke Lantta
You can’t win a fight over a will if you don’t have standing to challenge the will. We’ve previously looked at standing in the context of guardianship challenges and beneficiaries who thought they could pursue the estate’s claims better than the executor could. Today, we take a look at who has standing to pursue claims that a will and several contracts were the products of undue influence and a lack of capacity.
In Matter of Estate of Glennie, the Montana Supreme Court reversed a trial court’s decision that a testator’s son lacked standing to challenge the will and to seek to set aside cattle sale and lease agreements entered into by a sibling and the testator. In doing so, the Montana Supreme Court showed us what to look for under Montana law in order to determine standing.The bottom line is if the will is set aside, will the person seeking to challenge it benefit? In Matter of Estate of Glennie, however, the unique aspect was that – unless there was another will – the son challenging the will would not benefit if the property passed via the laws of intestacy.
When Thomas Glennie died, his executor filed a motion to admit the testator’s will to probate. Thomas’s son, Bruce Glennie, objected and also moved to set aside several cattle sale and lease agreements entered into by Thomas and another of his sons, Neil. Bruce alleged that Thomas lacked testamentary capacity and capacity to contract and that Neil exerted undue influence over Thomas.
Here’s where it gets interesting. If the will was invalid, then – without another prior will – the property would all pass to Thomas’s wife, Sheena Glennie. So, Bruce alleged that Thomas executed a previous will that gave Bruce more property than he received under the will offered to probate. Bruce did not produce a previous will, but claimed that he should have an opportunity to find one through the benefit of discovery. The trial court dismissed Bruce’s claims for lack of standing, but the Montana Supreme Court reversed.
In other words, Bruce was to get something under the will offered to probate. If that will was set aside, then Bruce would get nothing. However, Bruce alleged that a previous will existed in which he got more than he would otherwise get under the will offered to probate. These allegations were a sufficient basis for Bruce to establish standing.