A well-constructed estate plan will take the administration phase into account. It is important to make sure that you do everything possible to ensure the facilitation of hassle-free distributions to the heirs.
Clearly, an estate contest would create a messy, time-consuming situation, and there are steps that you can take to make this outcome less likely.
Don’t Drag Your Feet
Surveys that are conducted to gauge the estate planning preparedness of American adults consistently yield discouraging results. The vast majority of people do not have estate plans in place, but most unprepared individuals know that it is important.
If you are going through life without an estate plan, action is required. The most important reason is to protect your loved ones, but you also minimize the possibility of a successful challenge when you have stated your wishes in writing.
An intestate estate situation would be sorted out by the probate court, and anyone with an interest can make a claim to an inheritance. The first step to take to prevent a contested situation is to state your wishes in a legally valid estate planning document.
Even if you are procrastinating because you are not entirely sure about every detail, you can record your choices to the best of your ability to cover this base. As time goes on, you can make adjustments to reflect your current wishes.
Communicate Your Decisions
You can nip potential estate challenges in the bud if you tactfully communicate your choices to your loved ones while you are living. If you are making a decision that is not going to sit right with someone, honest, sincere communication can go a long way.
They can provide feedback, and there can be a productive give and take. Hopefully, they will come to terms with your choices, and they will not cause problems after your passing.
If you have a will or a living trust, you can include a no-contest clause. It would trigger the complete disinheritance of any inheritor that challenges the terms of the estate plan.
They could still go forward and contest the will during probate, and they can file a lawsuit if you have a living trust. However, they would think twice if they were risking their inheritance to issue a challenge.
This is one of the reasons why it is usually unwise to completely disinherit the child. Under those circumstances, they would have nothing to lose if they contest the estate.
Review Your Estate Plan Annually
Circumstances in life change, and they can impact your existing estate plan. There can also be changes to laws that impact aspects of estate plans.
Estate planning is an ongoing process. You should plan to visit your estate planning attorney to review your plan on an annual basis. If your children are aware of the fact that you are always prioritizing your plan, they will know that you have taken great pains to keep it current.
It is difficult to win an estate contest when it is very clear that the decedent exercised diligence over an extended period of time to keep the plan current.
Use a Trust Instead of a Will
There is a built-in process for an estate challenge when you use a will, because the document would be admitted to probate, and the court would provide supervision. One of the duties of the court is to determine the validity of the will, so the window of opportunity is wide open.
On the other hand, if you use a living trust, you would act as the trustee while you are living. After your passing, the successor trustee that you name in the trust declaration would distribute the assets outside of probate, so there would be no readily available challenge forum.
As we have touched upon, the beneficiary of a living trust can file a lawsuit to contest the terms, but the no-contest clause would act as a powerful disincentive.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
We are here to help if you are ready to work with an Oklahoma City estate planning attorney to put a plan in place. You can call us at 405-843-6100 to schedule a consultation appointment, and you can use our contact form if you would rather send us a message.
And if you would like to contact our Tulsa estate planning office, the number is 918-615-2700.