"Ensuring a will is properly executed can severely limit the ability for a will contest to succeed. An experienced elder law or estate planning attorney can assist with this process and verify that a will is executed according to the law."
Forbes.com (May 10, 2011) “How To Prevent a Will Contest”
We frequently read about the protracted, or particularly venomous will contests of celebrity families. But what about your will – and your family? Are you confident that you are leaving a family legacy of peace and harmony, and not a wake of destruction? A recent article in Forbes talked about how to prevent will contest in your own family.
A will contest is a lawsuit challenging the validity of a last will and testament. A contest may ensue if an heir or family member perceives some inequity or unjustness in the distribution of money or possessions. They may contest that the willmaker lacked mental capacity to execute the will, was under the undue influence of another, or that there is some sort of fraud or improper execution of the will.
Proper drafting of the will can make these types of contests less likely to occur – or succeed. Your will may include a no contest clause, or an in terroreum clause, which is a provision that can be used to strip the inheritance from anyone who contests the will if that person loses the lawsuit. These types of clauses often dissuade disgruntled heirs from pursuing a contest.
Some other tips include:
- Explaining the will to your heirs, or leaving a related letter to be read after your death to help explain some of your decisions.
- You may consider videotaping the signing of the will to help show the court that you signed freely and with the requisite mental capacity to agree.
- To remove the possibility of allegations of undue influence, meet with your estate attorney independently, and without the presence of other family members.
If you want to ensure that your estate is distributed according to your desires, you may be well-advised to enlist an experienced elder law or estate planning attorney to assist you and ensure that your will is executed both according to the law and according to your wishes.