“You’ve probably seen it in the movies or on TV hundreds of times: A close-knit family gathers for the reading of the will of a wealthy patriarch or matriarch. When the terms are revealed, someone benefits at the expense of someone else, causing a ruckus. It may even come to blows.”
When the details of a will are announced, “bad blood” can continue to boil between estranged family members, who won’t even speak to one another.
Wealth Advisor’s recent article, “How to Protect Your Will From Legal Challenges,” explains that unfortunately, a similar scene can also play out in real life, if you fail to make proper provisions.
However, with some planning, you can avoid these kinds of disputes—or at least minimize the risk of your will being contested by your loved ones.
Before you (and your spouse, if married) consider your will and your comprehensive estate plan, discuss estate matters with close family members who likely will be impacted. Give them a rough outline of your plans for the disposition of your assets and other important topics. These types of conversations can eliminate potential problems and better prepare your heirs. It will also avoid a dramatic “shocker,” like those seen on the big and small screen.
While there are no guarantees, review these ways to bulletproof your will from a legal challenge:
A no-contest clause. This is also known as an “in terrorem clause.” It says that if anyone named in your will challenges it, he or she is excluded from your estate.
Witnesses. Use witnesses who know you well, like close friends or business associates because they can state convincingly that you were of sound mind when you made out the will. You should also select witnesses in good health, preferably younger than you are, and easily located. You can also add extra witnesses for more protection.
A physician’s note. A doctor’s note about your health status is recommended, if you’re extremely ill or elderly. This can declare that you have the requisite mental capacity to make estate planning decisions, which can be useful in addressing legal challenges. Get the physician’s note near to the time that the will is signed.
In addition, you can protect your will from legal challenges, by recording it. State laws may have something to say about this, so speak with your estate planning attorney.