5 Tips That Could Help You Avoid a Will Contest
As uncomfortable as it may be for many people to think about what will happen to their property and assets after their death, estate planning is crucial to providing loved ones with security and peace of mind. Sadly, when a loved one passes away, families are often fractured by disputes over the decedent’s estate, sometimes leading to years of tension between family members who were once very close. In some cases, a would-be beneficiary feels so slighted that he or she decides to initiate a will contest and take the matter the court.
In my practice as estate planning attorney, I have heard similar concerns expressed by many of my clients. I understand that the period following the death of a loved one can be emotionally turbulent, but there are some steps you can take to alleviate much of the uncertainty and often prevent a will contest.
Tip #1: Plan Sooner Rather Than Later
One of the most commons grounds for challenging a will is that the testator—the creator of the will—was not of sound mind when the will was executed. The longer you wait to begin the planning process, the more your age, health, and other factors may provide ammunition for a will contest. Begin planning well in advance while there are no questions about your mental fitness and judgment. Doing so will also give you time to make adjustments as needed to ensure your estate plan continues to meet your changing needs.
Tip #2: Talk About Your Plans
What you decide to do with your property is up to you. You may feel pressure from certain family members regarding certain assets, but, in the end, the choice is yours to make. Though it may not be the most pleasant conversation to have, you should consider telling those you love about your plans in advance. If the resulting—reasonable—discussion makes you rethink some of your decisions, that is your prerogative, but family members who are blindsided by the terms of your will may be more likely to file a challenge in court.
Tip #3: Utilize Living Trusts
If you would rather not share the details of your estate with everyone, a revocable living trust could provide an alternative. Such trusts are more private—compared to a will which becomes a document of public record— and, if executed correctly, can be used to transfer ownership of property while you are still living. Other trusts may be used to provide inheritance benefits to heirs on a conditional basis.
Tip #4: Include No-Contest Clauses
While you cannot legally prevent someone from filing a will contest, you can limit what he or she will receive in the event that such a suit is filed. For example, your will could include a clause that says any would-be heir who contests the will forfeits his or her entire inheritance. At the very least, a no-contest clause should force an heir to consider the consequences of filing and losing a will contest.
Tip #5: Work With a DuPage County Estate Planning Lawyer
For more information about preventing will contests and drafting a will that can withstand legal challenges, contact one of our experienced Hoffman Estates wills and trusts attorneys. Call the Gierach Law Firm today at 630-756-1160 and get the guidance you need in securing your family’s future.