You would do well to adopt a broader perspective when you engage in your estate planning efforts. Yes, you have to state your wishes in writing in a will or trust, but that is not the long and short of it.
The estate administration process can be complicated and time-consuming even if there are no particular problems, but an estate plan challenge can be a nightmare. In this post, we will look at four things that you can do to prevent an estate challenge before it happens.
Put a Plan in Place
When you execute a will or trust, you have stated your wishes in writing in a legally binding manner. It is possible to challenge the terms, but it is very difficult for the disgruntled party to emerge victorious, because you had the absolute right to make your own decisions.
On the other hand, if you die without executing any estate planning documents at all, there are shades of gray. The probate court would provide supervision during the administration process, and interested parties can make claims with regard to their beliefs about your intentions.
You can nip this type of thing in the bud if you take action to put a plan in place sooner rather than later. Even if you have to make changes in the future, when you have a plan, intestacy will never enter the picture.
Use a Living Trust
If you use a will as your asset transfer vehicle, you would name an executor to act as the estate administrator. The will would be admitted to probate, and the court would assume a supervisory role.
Clearly, the situation would not be as tangled as it would be if you die intestate, but it is easy to contest the terms of a will. The court is required to determine the validity of the document, so anyone that wants to present a challenge can make a case while the estate is being probated.
A revocable living trust is another legal device that you can use as the centerpiece of your estate plan. You would act as the trustee while you are alive, so you would not surrender control of the assets.
In the trust declaration, you would name a successor trustee to administer the trust after your passing, and your heirs would be the beneficiaries. When the time comes, the trustee would distribute assets to the beneficiaries outside of probate.
As a result, there would be no existing forum for a challenge. Someone could file a lawsuit to challenge the terms of the trust, but the path forward would be complex, and the legal fees would be considerable.
Include a No-Contest Clause
A no-contest clause can be included in your will or trust. When a no-contest clause is in place, any person that is named in the document as an inheritor would lose their inheritance if they challenge the terms.
An unhappy camper could take a gamble, but they will certainly think twice before they risk their inheritance. On the other hand, if you completely disinherit someone, they would have nothing to lose. This is something to keep in mind if you are considering this course of action.
Visit Your Attorney Regularly
Your estate plan should be reviewed every year or two to make sure that it is always up-to-date. In addition to events in your own life that can trigger the need for an update, there can be changes to relevant laws, so estate planning should be viewed as a process.
Estate contests are based on the contention that the document that has been presented does not really reflect the true wishes of the decedent. If your family members know that you consistently visited your estate planning attorney to keep your plan current, this type of contention wouldn’t hold much water.
View Our On-Demand Webinar!
We have recorded an on-demand webinar that you can view to gain a more thorough understanding of this very important process. There is no charge, so this a great opportunity that you should definitely take advantage of while you still can. To obtain access, visit our Manhattan, NY estate planning webinar page and follow the instructions.