The purpose of a will is to be sure that your affairs are handled after your death and that your loved ones are taken care of properly. A will also protects your estate from various forms of litigation, including suits filed by family members who do not agree with the will’s contents. For this reason, it is important to take steps to protect your last will and testament from potential contests after you have died.
Plan Your Estate When You are Young
The best advice regarding estate planning is to begin taking steps when you are young and of sound mind. Even if you don’t have a lot of assets, are single or don’t feel as if there is much to protect, a will makes things much easier for your heirs. In addition, creating your will when you are of sound mind makes it more difficult for someone to claim you were not able to make an informed decision regarding the disposition of your assets.
No Contest Clause
In some states, it is possible to include an in terrorem clause, also known as a “no contest” clause. The in terrorem clause states that if anyone named in your will or irrevocable trust files a lawsuit to challenge the provisions of the document, they receive nothing from the estate. Some states prohibit such a clause, while other states name exceptions to the rule that could make the clause unenforceable. An estate attorney can advise whether this clause is applicable in your state.
A revocable living trust is another means of avoiding will contests after your death. Trusts are personal documents that remain private, while a will is a matter of public record. In addition, a revocable trust covers all phases of your life, regardless of health, and can continue even after you pass away. A will only takes effect at the time of your death. If there are family members that you feel may squander their inheritance or create trouble after your death, consider creating a lifetime trust to encourage more responsibility and reduce the chance of litigation.
Discuss your estate plan with family members as well so that there are no surprises after your death. Every few years, review the terms of your will to be sure it still suits your current goals. A pattern of repeatedly reviewing your estate plan will make it much more difficult for a will contest to be successful, as your record will demonstrate that the will is indeed representative of your final wishes.