For many people, among the many reasons to have a comprehensive estate plan, one of the most important is to protect their loved ones from costly and unnecessary legal disputes. From relatives who have never seen eye-to-eye to family members who have different ideas about what their loved ones would have wanted, there are numerous issues that can lead to will disputes and other types of estate litigation, and many of these issues can be avoided with careful and detail-oriented estate planning.
5 Tips for Helping Your Loved Ones Avoid Probate and Estate Litigation
When it comes to matters of inheritance, these tips can help you provide clear guidance for your relatives and avoid leaving open questions that are likely to lead to contentious disputes:
1. Think Carefully about Your Specific Bequests
When deciding who should receive each of your assets, it is important to think about how all of your individual bequests work together. For example, do you want to make sure that each of your children receives the same overall value of property or an equal number of keepsakes? Are you certain that your estate plan covers all of your assets? Any assets not covered in your estate plan could provide fertile grounds for litigation.
2. Make Effective Use of Non-Probate Transfers
If you make bequests in your will, your loved ones will need to administer your estate through the process known as probate. Issues that arises during probate can lead to costly and time-consuming litigation. Making effective use of non-probate transfers could reduce the chances of your loved ones ending up in a dispute.
3. Choose Your Personal Representative (and Trustee) Carefully
Personal representatives and trustees are subject to a variety of legal obligations, and serving as a personal representative or trustee requires patience, diligence, and the ability to effectively perform all of the duties involved. Mistakes by personal representatives and trustees are among the most-common issues leading to probate and trust litigation.
4. Name Contingent (or “Back-up”) Beneficiaries
If one of your beneficiaries dies before you do, having a contingent beneficiary allows you to avoid leaving a hole in your estate plan. The same goes for personal representatives and trustees.
5. Follow the Formalities for Creating an Enforceable Will
Finally, to reduce the chances of someone challenging your will, make sure you adhere to all of Wisconsin’s requirements for executing a valid and enforceable will. This includes (but is not limited to) having two witnesses sign your will. There are steps you can take to limit relatives’ ability to claim undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity, and other deficiencies during probate as well.
Disclaimer: This Article Is Not Legal Advice.
Never rely on an article for legal advice as the law frequently changes, information may not be accurate, there may be exceptions to a rule, and reliance may be detrimental. Always consult one of our experienced attorneys for competent, current, and accurate legal advice.
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If you would like to speak with an attorney about preparing or updating your estate plan, we encourage you to get in touch. Located in Wausau, we provide estate planning services to individuals throughout North Central Wisconsin. To speak with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys in confidence, please call (715) 842-2291 or request an appointment online today.