Why should we worry now about the possibility of having our will contested when we’re already gone? Well, the goal of creating a will is to ensure that you have control over the distribution of your property after your death, rather than the having it default to Virginia’s statutory takers, who may or may not be who you want. However, if one or more family members challenge your will, a judge may ultimately be the one to decide how your assets will be distributed. In this blog, we will discuss various ways you can avoid having your will contested.
Seek an Expert Estate Planning Lawyer’s Help to Avoid Having Your Will Contested
The D-I-Y trend has made its way into estate planning. But creating an estate plan by consulting with an experienced estate planning lawyer is the safest way to avoid will contests. Writing your will with an estate planning attorney can also ensure that your will is a legally legitimate and correctly executed legal document.
Don’t Put Off Estate Planning
Plan your estate while you are in excellent health – while you are of sound mind and body. If you write your will while your physical or mental health is failing, your will is at greater risk of being contested and may be declared invalid due to your lack of mental ability.
Consider the Use of Trusts
Trusts are becoming more popular in estate planning and are effective in a variety of situations. Once a will is filed in court, it becomes a public record, which can lead to disagreements and will contests in part because all heirs get notice of the will being recorded even if you do not include them as a beneficiary in the will. A revocable living trust, on the other hand, is a personal and private document that does not have to be filed as a public record. You can control who gets notice and how much information is shared.
Furthermore, trusts can be utilized to offer financial support for difficult beneficiaries who could otherwise waste their inheritance or for beneficiaries who cannot manage finances due to disability. Trusts are adaptable and are the best tool to achieve specific goals for controlling how your legacy is passed on.
Write Your Will on Your Own Terms
To avoid charges of undue influence after your death, make sure you prepare your will in settings where family members or other beneficiaries cannot intervene. Avoid having beneficiaries act as witnesses, and don’t let beneficiaries attend sessions with your estate planning counsel. This is especially true if you are being cared for by a family member who is also a beneficiary.
Provide Proof of Your Physical and Mental Health
If you have had some physical or mental decline, it may be prudent to request that your physician do a medical examination. This way if there is any dispute after your death, there is some evidence to verify that you are mentally competent to carry out your wishes. Also, an experienced estate planning attorney will always meet with you personally and ask you about your family and finances before preparing a will. Then, when you sign your documents in the attorney’s office, they will ask a series of questions about your intentions before you sign your will and have witnesses to verify the answers.
Respond To Your Family’s Inquiries
Consider informing your most trusted family and any beneficiaries of your intentions. If you clarify the reasoning for your decisions, it’s less likely your family will be unpleasantly surprised later and challenge your will. You may consider writing a letter to your beneficiaries, which can be read alongside your will; but be careful to do so in consultation with your estate planning attorney because you do not want to inadvertently invalidate your will.
Always Make Sure Your Will is Up-To-Date
Don’t just file your will and other estate planning paperwork in a drawer and forget about them. Review your will with an attorney periodically and make any adjustments as soon as major life events occur.
Take Control of Your Estate Plan & Avoid Having Your Will Contested
Crafting the perfect estate plan that works for you and your family is an essential part of protecting your legacy. If you would like to learn more about how you can make sound planning decisions, we invite you to attend one of Promise Law’s free estate planning workshops. By attending a workshop, you also get a complimentary consultation with one of our attorneys!