6 Ways to Avoid Your Will Being Contested
Writing a will or trust is an important step in ensuring that your assets go to whom you want them to after you pass away. However, even with careful planning and consideration, you can’t always keep someone from trying to contest your will or trust. When this happens, conflict and tension can arise amongst your beneficiaries, who are usually your friends and family, the last people you want to be in conflict. This conflict usually takes the form of a lengthy and expensive legal battle. As experienced estate planning attorneys, we at The Law Offices of Diron Rutty, LLC have seen firsthand the effects of contested wills, trusts, and estates on families. We’ll discuss the different ways a will or trust can be contested and provide tips on how you can avoid these issues and keep peace between your beneficiaries.
Contesting a Will
A will can be contested for various reasons, but the most common grounds include:
- Fraud: Fraud occurs when someone intentionally misrepresents or withholds information to deceive another person. This can take the form of unknown heirs, secret assets, or hiding your lack of mental capacity.
- Undue influence: Undue influence occurs when someone exerts pressure or manipulates the testator – you, the person making the will – into including or excluding certain beneficiaries or giving specific assets to specific people.
- Lack of mental capacity: A lack of mental capacity refers to a person’s inability to understand what they are doing and/or the consequences of their actions when creating a will.
- Improper execution: Improper execution means that the will did not meet all legal requirements, is not up-to-date, or was not properly followed and is therefore invalid.
To contest a will, an interested party must file a lawsuit in probate court and provide evidence to support their claim. This can be a lengthy and costly process, as it involves hiring attorneys, gathering evidence, and attending court hearings.
Contesting a Trust
Similarly to a will, a trust can also be contested for reasons such as fraud, undue influence, lack of mental capacity, and improper execution. However, trusts are generally harder to contest because they have more legal protections in place. Trusts are also administered outside of probate court, so the process of contesting a trust will differ from contesting a will.
Contesting an Estate
An estate can be contested for many of the same reasons as a will or trust. If you pass away without a will or trust, your assets are distributed according to state laws, which may not align with your wishes. This can lead to disputes among family members and other interested parties.
How to Avoid Contested Wills, Trusts, and Estates
To avoid your will, trust, and/or estate being contested, it’s essential to plan carefully and consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. Here are some tips that we recommend:
- Create a comprehensive and clear will or trust that clearly outlines your wishes. Leave nothing up to interpretation. This can help you prevent misunderstandings and disputes among your beneficiaries.
- Choose a competent and trustworthy executor or trustee. You want someone who you know will carry out your wishes according to the terms of your will or trust as best as they can.
- Keep detailed records of all of your assets. This includes bank accounts, investments, real estate, and personal belongings. This can help prevent accusations of fraud or improper distribution of assets.
- Consider having a video recording of yourself signing your will or trust. This will help to prove that you were of sound mind and not under any undue influence when creating the document.
- If you have concerns about potential challenges to your will, consider adding a no-contest clause. This clause states that if anyone contests your will and loses, they will lose their inheritance.
- Regularly review and update your will or trust. Your will or trust should always reflect any changes in your life. This can include changes such as a marriage, divorce, birth/adoption of a child or grandchild, and/or acquiring new significant assets.
Contact the Estate Planning Attorneys at The Law Offices of Diron Rutty, LLC
Contested wills, trusts, and estates can cause unnecessary stress and strain on families during an already difficult time. By being proactive and seeking legal guidance from The Law Offices of Diron Rutty, LLC, you can minimize the risk of your will or trust being contested. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and create an estate plan that protects your wishes and your loved ones.