Anyone who inherits or can potentially inherit from your estate may file a will contest. This outcome is not a desirable scenario. Will contests involve intense litigation and may drag on for years. Meanwhile, your other heirs will not receive the property you granted them.
Family members can file will contests if they believe you lack mental capacity, gave in to undue influence, became a fraud victim or did not execute the will correctly. You can avoid these arguments by following these five tips:
- Communicate: Do not make a family member’s disinheritance a secret until death. Explain your reasons to other family members so you are all on the same page. If there are conditions to a family member inheriting, explain those to them. For example, if an inheritance is contingent on finishing college or drug rehabilitation, tell them. Do not leave it as a surprise.
- Maintain some distance: If you plan to leave substantial property to a relative who is also your caretaker, do not involve them in your estate planning. Your other relatives may assume the caretaker exercised undue influence on you and contest the will. Do not bring family members to an attorney consultation to discuss or sign your estate planning documents.
- Do not procrastinate: You want to draft your estate plan while everything is going well. It is easier for family members to contest your will if you wait until you face a terminal diagnosis or cognitive problems. Instead, start estate planning when your health is fine and there is no question about your mental capacity.
- Review your estate plan every year: Nothing will communicate your seriousness better than keeping your will up to date. Do not just leave it in a filing cabinet and forget about it. Take it out for review once a year to ensure your wishes still align. If you make small changes along the way, it shows your family that you are paying attention and carefully considering your will’s provisions.
- Add a no-contest clause: A no-contest clause states that they receive nothing if an heir challenges your will and loses. This strategy only works if the heir gets something of value. If you add this clause, ensure the heir receives enough, so a will challenge is not worth the risk.
The estate planning attorneys at Dworken & Bernstein can help you create a comprehensive estate plan. We know your family is unique, and we strive to reflect your wishes while also preventing will contests. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.