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How to Avoid a Will or Trust Contest

by | Dec 22, 2022 | Trust Administration |

A Will that is poorly written or not frequently updated can be vulnerable to contestation. What is contestation? It is the formal objection to a Will’s or Trust’s validity.  Reasons for contesting a Will or Trust may include claims that the document does not reflect the wishes of the person who created it or that the document does not meet legal standards.

Will or Trust contests can result in significant legal expense that depletes your estate, and can cause unnecessary and painful conflict among your loved ones during an already emotionally trying time. Although it is impossible to prevent all possible contests (anyone can file a lawsuit whether or not they have a valid legal basis to do so), there are several things you may consider doing to minimize the risk of Will or Trust contest:

  • Do not “do it yourself”! Even the smallest mistake can leave your wishes vulnerable to being contested by an unhappy relative, life partner, or close friend. An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to help you create and maintain a plan that will discourage lawsuits.
  • Discuss your wishes with your family. It’s important to discuss your wishes with your family. You don’t have to discuss all of the intimate details of your estate plan, but informing beneficiaries of your wishes and setting expectations for your agents can help avoid future will contests.
  • Don’t just disinherit wayward children. Instead of completely disinheriting a beneficiary who you fear may squander their inheritance or use it against your wishes, you can choose to hold their inheritance in a lifetime discretionary trust, which would be overseen by a trusted individual or third party. Your beneficiary would then receive distributions over time instead of outright cash in a lump sum.
  • Don’t forget to provide for unmarried partners. If your partner is not your spouse or registered domestic partner, they may be unintentionally disinherited without proper estate planning.  For example, if your partner lives with you in a home owned by you, your partner may be forced to move out of that home upon your death.  Proper estate planning can provide for your partner and allow your partner to continue to live in your home after your death, and provide for the distribution of your property to other beneficiaries upon the death of your partner.
  • Keep your estate plan documents up to date. Life changes, such as births and deaths, property acquisitions, marriages, etc., may cause your wishes to change over time. Your estate plan serves you best and is less likely to be contested when it is updated to reflect these constantly changing circumstances.

Contact the Law Office of Carol A. Fauerbach at (916) 597-1305 to discuss options for developing a customized estate plan that meets the needs of you and your family.

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