It is not uncommon for those who stand to receive less than what they were expecting from a loved ones estate to threaten legal action to contest the validity of a will. These actions, (commonly known as will contests) are akin to a civil lawsuit where the testators intent is reviewed. The awards stemming from such an action may result in a will being amended and property being redistributed.
But just like most civil lawsuits, will contests are not resolved overnight. In fact, a settlement realized within 12 months after a suit is filed is considered fast. Contested matters that reach a judges verdict could take two years to decide.
Because of this possibility, a carefully written estate plan is essential to avoiding disputes among beneficiaries. This post will provide a few tips.
Dont count on everyone getting along Your beneficiaries may love each other right now, but their feelings could change after you pass on, leaving them to battle over what they should be entitled to. As such, assuming that everyone will simply get along and figure things out for themselves is not a good idea.
Be cautious when disinheriting children A child who is disinherited is arguably the most likely to challenge a parents will. Instead of completely leaving a child out of a will, establishing a trust that is controlled by responsible trustees may be a better way to protect an irresponsible child from himself.
Dont be afraid to communicate There is no established rule that prohibits you from discussing your estate plan. In fact, explaining your plan, or at least part of it, to a potential executor or responsible beneficiary may be helpful, especially if certain bills must be paid or other financial obligations must be met.
If you have additional questions about how to avoid inheritance disputes, an experienced attorney can advise you.