If you want to plan your estate effectively, you should see the big picture. Yes, you should express your final wishes in writing, but you should also consider the actual events that will take place after your passing.
A contested estate plan contest can be time-consuming and messy, and it can permanently damage relationships. You should definitely keep this in mind if you intend to make some decisions that will not be very popular with someone that is expecting an inheritance.
There are certain steps you can take in advance to prevent estate contests, and we will look at four of them in this post.
When you have executed a legally binding will or trust, a challenge can be initiated, but the disgruntled party will be fighting an uphill battle. After all, you have the right to distribute assets in any way that you see fit, so there is a huge burden of proof on the challenger.
On the other hand, if you pass away without recording your wishes in advance, the probate court would step in to supervise the estate administration process. Anyone could claim that you wanted them to receive a certain inheritance, and there would be no proof to the contrary.
There are intestate succession laws that are used under these circumstances but competing parties can present their respective cases. This will add to the time consumption, and when the court makes its decision, your true wishes may not be carried out.
When you look at it objectively, there is no reason to take any chances with intestacy when you can simply place a phone call to an estate planning attorney from our firm.
We will gain an understanding of your objectives and help you execute an ironclad plan to ensure the appropriate passing of your legacy.
Use a Living Trust Instead of a Will
The probate court handles intestate estate matters, and a will would also be admitted to probate. When you draw up the will, you would name an executor, and they would administer the estate under the supervision of the court.
One of the responsibilities of the court is to determine the validity of the will. As a result, anyone that wants to contest the will has an open window of opportunity during the probate process. They do not have to file a lawsuit, and they don’t necessarily have to hire an attorney.
If you use a living trust as the centerpiece of your estate plan, you would act as the trustee while you are alive and well, so you would maintain control of the assets. In the trust declaration, you would name a successor trustee to administer the trust after you are gone.
When the time comes, the trustee would distribute the assets in accordance with your wishes outside of probate. There would be no court involvement, so there would be no built-in forum for an estate challenge.
It is possible for someone to file a lawsuit to contest the terms of a living trust, but it is more complicated, and there will be attorney fees involved. In the end, a challenge is less likely if a living trust is utilized.
Include a No-Contest Clause
When you have a will or a living trust, you can include a no-contest clause. This would trigger the disinheritance of anyone that challenges the terms of the will or trust. They could still go forward with a challenge, but this is a risk the most people would not be willing to take.
Review Your Plan With Your Attorney Regularly
The grounds for estate challenges are incapacity, fraud, undue coercion, and improper execution. If it can be proven that you have not looked at your estate plan in 20 or 30 years, a contention that it no longer reflected your true wishes can make sense on the surface.
On the other hand, if your family members know that you review your estate plan with your attorney every couple of years, they will recognize the fact that it is up to date.
They would not get very far in court if your attorney can attest to the fact that you were well aware of the contents of the documents.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
Our doors are open if you are ready to work with an attorney to put a plan in place. You can call us at 818-937-2335 to arrange a consultation at out Burbank, CA estate office, and you can send us a message through our contact page.