If your loved ones or family members decide to contest your will or trust after you’re gone, the results can be financially and emotionally disastrous for everyone involved. Your loved ones can be torn apart, your wishes disregarded, and your estate depleted, and you won’t be able to control the process at that point. But if you take action now, you can plan ahead and help your family avoid a contest and the unfortunate fallout that comes afterward.
Keep these guidelines in mind to avoid challenges:
- Skip “do it yourself” solutions. Don’t attempt to write or update your will or trust on your own, especially if you’re concerned that a disagreement might be waiting in the future. Let an experienced estate planning attorney help you create a plan that will discourage lawsuits and ensure all legal formalities are followed.
- Tell your family about your estate plan. When it comes to estate planning, secrecy breeds contempt and suspicion. You don’t need to share all of the intimate details of your estate plan, but you should explain that you have taken the time to create a plan that spells out your final wishes and what should be done if you die or become incapacitated.
- Use discretionary trusts for problematic beneficiaries. You may feel concerned that one of your beneficiaries will squander their inheritance or use it in a manner that counters your beliefs or harms them. But before you disinherit that person, consider the alternatives available to you. For example, you can have the problematic beneficiary’s share held in a lifetime discretionary trust and name a neutral third party, such as a bank or trust company, as trustee. This will ensure that the beneficiary will receive his or her inheritance according to the terms and conditions you have dictated, while keeping the money out of the hands of creditors, ex-spouses, or unintended parties. This will also let you control who inherits the balance of the trust if the beneficiary dies before the funds are distributed.
- Update your estate plan on a regular schedule. Estate planning is an ongoing process, not a one-time task. So be sure to update your plan as your circumstances change. A schedule of regular updates will discourage challenges since your plan will clearly reflect your current estate planning goals.
These tips can prevent your heirs from challenging your estate planning decisions and encourage them to trust and fulfill your final wishes. If you are concerned about heirs contesting your will or trust, please contact our team and arrange a consultation. We can help you lay the groundwork for future peace of mind.