These days it seems that people will argue over just about anything. When it comes to your estate, avoiding time-consuming and expensive arguments —like will contests—is critical.
Below are 3 Tips that will help you to avoid having your estate tied up in a will contest.
What is a Will Contest?
But before we get into how to avoid one, let us discuss what a will contest is.
A will contest is the legal process by which someone challenges the validity of a will.
To contest a will, the person contesting it must be someone who has an interest, like your spouse or heirs. (However, because state laws vary on who has standing to contest a will, you should consult counsel.) The person contesting the will must have legal grounds for believing that the will is invalid.
For example, perhaps they believe you were not of sound mind when you wrote your will. Or, someone unduly influenced you to leave all your money to your pet instead of your children. Or, the formalities of making the will were not complied with. There are many grounds for contesting a will and each state has its own rules concerning the specific requirements that must be met in order for a will to be valid, which is why it is important to consult competent estate counsel.
Tips for Avoiding a Will Contest.
Because of the undue time and expense that will contests cause (think, litigation; attorney’s fees; emotional drama and trauma) avoiding will contests is paramount. So here are 3 things you can do to ensure as much as you can, that your heirs do not contest your will.
Have Your Will Drafted by Competent, Experienced Trusts and Estates Counsel.
To us, this seems obvious. To you, it might appear self-serving. However, the number one thing you can do to avoid will contests or having an invalid will, is to have it properly drafted.
Handwritten wills (holographic wills) are almost always complete disasters and, while not invalid in Arizona, they are in other states. Do-it-yourself will forms and non-attorney drafted wills frequently leave out important aspects and requirements for valid wills and are susceptible to contests. (Keep in mind that non-attorneys cannot give you legal advice that would allow you to avoid making disastrous mistakes with your estate planning.)
Talk to Your Beneficiaries About Your Estate Plan.
Once you have an estate plan in place, you should talk to those most concerned in it. No, you don’t have to give them every detail of who you have left what to and why, but you do want to try to head off any problems (will contests) if you can. Often, if people know what to expect ahead of time (say, you have left more money to one child than another because you believe that child needs it more) it can prevent misunderstandings later.
Don’t Wait Until it’s Too Late!
Our final tip in this post is that you want to make your estate plan sooner than later. One of the most common grounds for contesting a will is that the testator or testatrix (maker of the will) was not of “sound mind” at the time the will was drafted. You want to make be in good health and not weak or vulnerable to the influence of others (caretakers etc.) when you make your will.
While you cannot control what your heirs will do when you are gone, following these tips will go a long way towards protecting your estate plan from a will contest.
We Are Here For You.
If you want to avoid a will contest or are ready to get make your estate plan, call us. We are experienced trusts and estates attorneys. We offer free consultations. We have offices in Sedona, Arizona and we serve all of Arizona. Call us at 928-282-1483 or contact us here. E-mail us or connect with us on Facebook , Twitter or LinkedIn.