A very common question that our clients will ask us when we are setting up their estate planning documents for them is whether or not this estate plan will avoid their family members from having an estate dispute after they die? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is that it depends. However, the following is a list of five ways to do your best to avoid an estate dispute for your loved ones after you die.
- Put in Place a Revocable or Irrevocable Living Trust
A very common way to limit an estate dispute is to set up a revocable or irrevocable living trust. Although, no estate planning strategy is full proof from estate disputes, a revocable living trust as the benefit of avoiding probate. In addition, a trust can be customized so as to avoid the common estate planning mistakes that can lead to estate disputes such as disinheriting a child or providing a child an unequal proportion of the estate assets.
- Utilize a No Contest Clause in Your Will and Trust
What is becoming a more common strategy to avoid estate disputes is by utilizing a no contest clause in the will and trust. This is a clause that clients sometime put in their will and trust when they suspect that their children and loved ones may fight over the assets after death. A no contest clause states that in the event you fight over the distribution of the assets according to my wishes after my death, then you will receive nothing. Although, sometimes these can cause more problems than they are worth, these clauses can be a useful tool to reduce the possibilities of an estate dispute.
- Do Not Amend or Execute a New Will or Estate Planning Documents When You Are Suffering from a Terminal Illness
The requirements of a valid Will in Tennessee are that you must be of sound mind and under no undue duress or compulsion when you execute your Will. Therefore, a number of will contest actions that are filed in Tennessee courts result from changing of the will shortly before death or during a terminal illness. As such, an important way to avoid estate disputes after your death is simply to complete thorough and complete estate planning the first time, and if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, to perform any necessary amendments to your estate plan immediately and before you are admitted to the hospital.
- Make Sure All of Your Family Members Know Your Final Wishes, Know Your Estate Planning Attorney, and Know Where Your Estate Planning Documents Can be Located
The most common reason for estate disputes that end up in court is because family members feel blindsided when he or she receives an unequal portion of the estate at death. In a large majority of circumstances, families that provide for unequal distributions to children are due in part to the adult child receiving the smaller share being more financially responsible and successful than the other children. For these reasons, it is should always be considered to inform your children and others who are to inherit under your will and/or trust what your wishes are and what each person will be receiving when you pass away.
- The Removal of Personal Heirlooms from the Home without Prior Knowledge of the Rest of the Family
A final reason that can result in estate disputes is interference by a spouse and/or non-family member. One of the most common ways that result in disputes is when a spouse, other non-family member, or even a direct beneficiary, removes certain personal family heirlooms from the home prior to speaking with all the other children and other beneficiaries of the estate. Therefore, you should inform your children and loved ones who will inherit under your estate that it is your desire that nothing should be removed from your home until all of the children and family members have had a chance to meet and review your will and/or trust with your attorney and understand how the property will be divided and how the estate will be settled.