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4 Ways to Avoid a Will or Trust Contest

4 ways to avoid a will or trust contest by davis law group estate and trust administration attorneys in Chesapeake, Virginia

4 Ways to Avoid a Will or Trust Contest

May 12, 2023 Davis Law Group

A will or trust contest can derail your final wishes, quickly deplete your estate’s assets, and create huge rifts among your loved ones.

However, a properly prepared estate plan can help your family avoid these potentially disastrous outcomes. If you are concerned that in-fighting and disagreement among your beneficiaries may be possible after your passing, consider the following tips when speaking with your estate planning attorney.

Forget the DIY legal solutions.
If you are truly concerned about beneficiaries contesting your final wishes, the last thing you want to do is attempt to write or update your will or trust on your own. Only an experienced estate planning attorney can help you put together and maintain an ironclad estate plan that will discourage lawsuits and ensure all legal formalities are followed.

Tell your family about your estate plans.
Secrecy can breed contempt, especially when it comes to estate planning. While you don’t need to tell every single heir the intimate details of your plan, you should inform them that you’ve sat down and created a plan that clearly states your final wishes. You should also provide beneficiaries with the contact information for who they should reach out to if you become incapacitated or die.

Use discretionary trusts for problematic beneficiaries.
It’s possible that you have had thoughts about completely disinheriting a beneficiary because of concerns about how they, or someone close to them, will manage (or mismanage) their inheritance. You may feel that they are likely to use it in a manner that goes against your beliefs or is harmful to them. But you don’t have to completely disinherit someone to avoid this situation. Rather, you can place this person’s portion of the inheritance in a lifetime discretionary trust and name a neutral, third party, such as a bank or trust company, as trustee. This will ensure that the beneficiary will receive his or her inheritance according to the terms and conditions you have set, while also keeping the money out of the hands of unintended parties, such as creditors or an ex-spouse. You will also be able to control who will inherit the balance of the trust if the beneficiary dies before the funds are completely distributed.

Keep your estate plan up to date.
Estate planning is not a one and done transaction. It’s an ongoing process because you, your assets and your beneficiaries will experience life changes between its initial writing and the time you pass. So as your and your beneficiaries’ circumstances change, you should work with your attorney to update your estate plan accordingly. For instance, you may have a new grandchild now who you didn’t have when you initially wrote your will. If that grandchild isn’t specifically named in the will  and the rest of the grandchildren are, there could be strife within the family or even a contest to the terms of the will. An up-to-date estate plan shows that you have taken the time to review and revise your plan as your family and financial situations change. This, in turn, will discourage challenges since your plan will encompass your current estate planning goals.

If you follow these four tips, your heirs are less likely to have the inclination or legal ability to challenge your estate planning decisions, and hopefully it will be clear enough to them that they are more inclined to willingly fulfill your final wishes. If you are concerned about a will or trust contest, reach out to Davis Law Group. Our experienced team of Estate Planning and Trust Administration attorneys have seen every scenario you can imagine, and therefore can give the best advice for your specific situation. Call us today to set up an estate planning consultation.