May 16 2019

How to Avoid Estate Will Contests


Estate planning is never as easy as it seems. Most people prepare a will to help spare their family members from a lengthy probate process or prevent family infighting. Unfortunately, some situations increase the risk of a contested will. These examples show that solutions are available if people know how to address them properly.

An Adult Child Is Disinherited
When writing a will, you must mention disinherited children in the will and explain why they were not given an inheritance. Doing so reduces the disinherited child’s ability to successfully contest the will. If possible, send a certified letter to the child at the same time the will is created to inform them of the situation. All other beneficiaries should also be made aware of the decision.

The Beneficiary Is an Addict
Addiction creates a lot of strife for many families, and the worry about how someone with this disease would manage their inheritance causes some parents to exclude the child from their will. There are other alternatives that could make certain the individual was provided for while eliminating the ability to spend their inheritance carelessly.

You can establish a trust that mandates the money received is only usable for specific living expenses. Use a bank or other corporate trustee to control the trust to prevent the beneficiary from harassing family members. Assign a remainder beneficiary for the trust so any remaining funds can go where the parents desire if the addict passes away sooner than expected.

Stepchildren Remain Close Despite a Divorce
Many people remain close to their stepchildren even after they divorce the parent of the child. To prevent conflict with the divorced party, it may be easier to provide for the former stepchild in another way instead of including them in the will. Purchase a separate life insurance policy and list them as the sole beneficiary. These funds are paid directly to the beneficiary and do not go through probate.

One Child Always Wants More
In some families, one member always believes they deserve more. Consider using a no-contest clause to avoid this situation. The clause basically states that any beneficiary that chooses to contest a will must forfeit their inheritance if they lose the case. This risk may be enough to prevent the individual from taking their family members to court.

Due to the complex nature of no-content clauses, it’s important to have the will prepared professionally if you plan to use the clause. If the clause is not written correctly, the incorrect wording could invalidate its use.

Personal Circumstances Require Change to the Will
Be cautious about rewriting or adjusting wills frequently, especially when you’re in declining health. Many contested wills are the ones written on a deathbed. Never attempt to cross out information and handwrite changes because it could invalidate the entire will. The best option is to have a lawyer amend the document or revoke and replace the old will.

Make a note on copies of the revoked will and sign each page after the updated document is complete. Make sure that you tell all beneficiaries about the changes and provide them with a copy of the new will to prevent confusion in the future. Future amendments must now also list the use of the clause in order for it to remain in effect.

Drafting a will is complicated, and families can become divided during the probate process. Avoid this by getting legal guidance from Wolfe, Jones, Wolfe, Hancock, Daniel & South, LLC. As estate attorneys, we can create documents that make the probate process faster and more accurate. Contact us to schedule a consultation.

How to Avoid Estate Will Contests