The death of a loved one is a difficult and emotional time for families. Grief aside, a family member may decide they are unhappy with what they do – or don’t – receive from an estate and choose to contest the will.
Will contests can extend for years, preventing all beneficiaries from receiving what they are entitled to from your estate. But while it isn’t always possible to stop your relatives from fighting over your final wishes, you can take steps to prevent will contests and ensure your intentions and legacy are secure when you’re gone.
1. Include a no-contest clause in your plan
A powerful deterrent for someone who wishes to challenge your will or trust is a no-contest clause. A no-contest clause is a provision you can include in your estate plan that states anyone who files a lawsuit to challenge your plan will receive nothing from your estate. Even if the beneficiary believes they are getting less than their fair, they’ll likely prefer it to nothing.
2. Put your trust in a trust
While a will is a public document that anyone can view once it’s filed with the court after your death, a revocable living trust is a personal document that you can keep private. Assets placed in trusts avoid the probate process because the creator of the trust relinquishes ownership of their assets to the trust. The person that you name as your trustee can settle your trust outside of the court after you pass on without supervision – heading off any contest.
3. Keep your plan up to date
You may not want to think about your end-of-life plans often, but you mustn’t forget to review your estate plan every year or two to ensure it’s still up to date. Establishing a pattern of meeting with your attorney to update your estate plan every couple of years will ensure your documents are iron-clad and illustrate to your loved ones that you are serious about your plans.
4. Let your loved ones know what to expect
While you may not want to gloat about your estate plan or who you intend to leave out of it entirely, you should let your loved ones know what to expect from their inheritance and why. Any big surprises after your death could breed conflict or will contests if someone is caught off-guard.
Will contests aren’t always avoidable, but you can take action today to make them less likely. By applying these tips, you can ensure your last wishes are fulfilled without interference.