Few events disrupt an estate plan and family harmony more than a will contest or other challenge to the plan. The specific challenges might not be predictable, because they often are triggered more by emotions than finances. But the risk of a contest almost always is present, and estate owners should know that they can be prevented or their effects minimized with a little planning.
Of course, a contest is likely if children are left unequal shares of the estate and are not told about this in advance. Leaving a child property in a trust instead of outright could cause trigger a contest. Cutting an adult child out of the will naturally can cause a challenge. Contests are common when significant assets are left to someone outside the immediate family, especially to a mistress or to a second spouse instead of the children from the first marriage. Even the division of modest personal assets can cause problems, as we discussed in last month’s visit.
Every estate plan should anticipate a contest or challenge. Even modest estates trigger battles, and those battles can devour both the estate and the family. A few simple measures can convince a potential challenger that there is minimal chance of success and the effort is not worth while. These measures increase the probability the estate plan will survive intact. Here are some steps to consider to safeguard your estate plan.
All types of litigation are on the rise, including will contests. It doesn’t take much to lay the groundwork to make a will contest unlikely. Every estate owner should consider taking steps to prevent a challenge.