No one wants their family fighting over their assets after they’re gone. One thing that motivates many people to create an estate plan is the desire to prevent such battles. Indeed, by putting an estate plan in place while there’s no question of your mental clarity, you can ease any concerns that you didn’t understand what you were doing or were unduly influenced by someone else. However, besides not procrastinating, there are other things you can do to lessen the chances of a legal battle over your estate.
You can include a no contest clause. These clauses state that anyone who challenges a will or other document in an estate plan and loses will receive nothing — even if the estate plan designated an inheritance. However, these clauses can be challenged.
There are other methods short of a no contest clause to prevent legal challenges. However, they often involve communicating with family members about your wishes while you’re still alive.
Many people don’t want to deal with the potential fallout of telling children and other relatives they won’t be getting as much as they might have anticipated. You don’t have to go over your estate plan in detail with your family. However, it’s a good idea if they have a general idea of what to expect.
If you’re concerned that estranged family members or relatives you haven’t seen since your childhood might come forward after you’re gone and challenge your will, putting the bulk of your assets in a revocable living trust can keep things private. Unlike a will, a trust doesn’t become public record. Further, because living trusts are indeed “living” documents that are in effect while people are still alive, relatives are less likely to reasonably believe that someone didn’t understand what was in one.
For many reasons, it’s a good idea to update your estate plan whenever significant changes occur in your life or your family. At the very least, you should review your estate plan every year and check in with your attorney if you have questions. This activity can demonstrate that you were aware of the contents of your plan up until the end and that you didn’t neglect to make an intended change,
If you have concerns about your estate plan being contested, talk with your attorney. They can help you determine the best course of action.