You have likely heard over and over that there are many advantages to creating a comprehensive estate plan. One of the most important benefits for many individuals is that it allows you to help prevent disputes among your loved ones after you are gone. Below are a few steps to follow when establishing your estate plan to help prevent litigation over your estate:
Act while you are healthy. Establishing your estate plan while you are healthy and able to properly get your affairs in order is the most effective way to ensure that your goals are met and your loved ones are protected. Don’t wait until you think it’s time to think about estate planning -- the time is now, if you are reading this article. Your family is worth it.
Confirm capacity. When it comes to disputes over estate planning documents, a common issue is whether the decedent (the person who died) had adequate mental capacity to sign the documents. Therefore, to avoid this type of lawsuit, if the individual signing the documents is elderly, have an examination by a physician immediately prior to executing the estate planning documents and confirm he or she has the required mental capacity to sign legal documents. Get that confirmation in writing.
Get the family involved. The earlier you can get your whole family involved in the process of estate planning, the better. If you wait until after death for family members to find out about your estate plan, there could be questions and conflicts that are unresolvable. Consider having one lawyer for the whole family (with appropriate understanding of potential conflicts) who can understand everyone’s interests and needs and support a cohesive plan for communication and understanding.
Professional executor. If you are aware of conflicts between your family members and you are concerned there will be fights over your estate and you are not willing to address those while you are living, appointing a professional executor may be a wise choice. Although it will cost money, if it can prevent expensive lawsuits and arguments among your loved ones and could be worth the added cost.
Disinheritance. If you decide to disinherit somebody, it is important to make your intentions clear and concise. The language used must make it obvious that the disinheritance is intentional. You do not need to provide a reason for why the individual is being disinherited because this could provide a basis for the disinherited person to challenge it. If you do want to provide a reason, do so in a separate, confidential writing that is given to your attorney to hold and use only if the disinherited party tries to contest the disinheritance.
Call our office to schedule a time for a private conversation about your family wealth via a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best ways for you to ensure your legacy of love and financial security for your family.