By Dalton Floyd, Jr.
It is commonly said that prevention is the best medicine, and in the case of your estate – early prevention can be the best remedy to decrease the chances of a possible Will Contest in the future.
If you don’t take control of your estate plan, someone else may, and then the default rules will apply. Your estate plan does not need to be complicated, but it should be your own plan – based on your own decisions and your goals. Estate planning allows you to control some of the outcome of your life’s efforts. If you don’t have a valid Will at the time of your death, you will not have any control as to how your property is distributed.
An effective estate plan can include a Will, trusts, powers of attorney for healthcare and property decisions, and advance health directives such as living wills and healthcare proxy. At The Floyd Law Firm PC, we are focused on developing estate plans that are specifically tailored to each individual client’s needs no matter how complex or straightforward.
Prevention of a Will Contest – The Floyd Law Firm can help you
When you write a Will, you have control over how your assets will be distributed after your death. However, if someone in your family disputes your will, an anonymous probate court judge could end up with the final say over who gets your property.
Unfortunately, Will Contests can drag out for years, preventing your heirs from getting the assets you wanted them to receive.
Attorney Dalton Floyd, and the team at The Floyd Law Firm, can assist you with the creation of an estate plan that prepares for – and reduces – the possibility that someone could challenge your wishes as stated in your Will.
Some of the steps you can take to ward off a Will contest after your death include:
Begin the process early – Make your estate plan while you are of sound mind. If you wait until your health is failing, or your mind is impacted by an accident, your Will becomes vulnerable to claims that you lacked the sufficient mental capacity to draft it.
Prove your own competency – When you write your Will, you can ask a physician and/or your attorney to certify that you are mentally competent at the time of drafting. A video recorded at the time you sign the Will can also help demonstrate that you acted with a clear head and of your own free will.
Seek qualified legal advice – There are do-it-yourself books and online tools available for writing your Will, however, using a qualified estate planning attorney is the best way to ensure it is properly executed and valid. If you do choose the DIY route, it is wise to have it reviewed by a lawyer.
Consider creating trusts – There are a variety of trusts that direct how your assets are managed, held, and distributed to your heirs. With a trust, you generally can avoid probate and increase control over how your estate is settled. Your heirs will receive their inheritance more quickly and privately – with potentially fewer costs incurred to the estate as well.
Write your Will without interference – Avoid complaints that someone exerted undue influence over you when you composed your Will. To aid in avoiding such contests, do not have your beneficiaries sign on as witnesses and refrain from including them in the meetings with your attorney.
Share your intentions clearly – Consider talking to your family about the intentions in your Will. Let your heirs know why you have designed it the way that you have, or write an explanatory letter to accompany your Will. Generally, what you put in the letter will not have a direct legal effect on your Will, but it can help your family members understand and accept your choices.
Include a no-contest clause – A no-contest clause stipulates that anyone who contests the will – and then loses that contest in court – is disinherited from what they would have otherwise received.
At the completion of your Will, occasionally meet with your attorney to make any necessary updates that reflect your current situation or changes in your life’s circumstances. Life events such as moving to a new location, having grandchildren, or losing a loved one, can have an impact on your plans or your estate and what is in your Will.
The Floyd Law Firm in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, is here to assist you in gaining the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your affairs are in order and that your loved ones will not have to work through resolving preventable issues of an unplanned estate or an incomplete Will.