Creating an estate plan is a feat. Only a small percentage of adults in New York, and nationwide, take the time to draft a will for the protection of their heirs and assets. However, the existence of a will by itself may not be enough to avoid conflict among your heirs.
If one of your concerns is that your heirs will dispute your estate plan or that certain family members will stir up conflict after you die, you may want to review your plan to make sure you are not providing ammunition for the fight. There are certain steps you can take to reduce the potential for a will contest that can disrupt the probate process and possibly create irreparable damage to the relationships among your family members.
A foolproof estate plan
Having an estate plan in place as early as possible is the first step toward preventing confusion that may lead to a will contest. Even if you’re not yet certain of the goals you want your estate plan to meet, executing a will early can avoid the question of your mental capacity when you wrote the will. However, it is critical that you review and revise your will frequently, especially if you experience major life changes, such as divorce or remarriage, or if your financial situation or assets change.
Other steps you can discuss with your attorney include the following:
- Adding a no-contest clause to your will that disinherits anyone who attempts to challenge your will through the courts
- Including a trust in your estate plan, which is a more flexible and private document that can also carry discretionary terms for special situations
- Sharing your estate plan discreetly with your loved ones, especially if your plan includes questionable terms, such as leaving a family member out of the will
- Avoiding bragging or publicizing the plans you have made in your will, particularly any decisions that may be painful to members of your family
- Taking the time to review your plan annually and make necessary changes promptly
Your attorney may also have some advice for ways to make your plan as solid as possible. The goal of any estate plan is to create a document that will express your wishes clearly. Taking the time to meet this goal can help you leave behind a legacy for which your loved ones may remember you fondly.