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? Bernard Krooks of Forbes recently wrote 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 are the executor of a will and concerned about disgruntled heirs perhaps pursuing a contest, you may be well-advised to enlist an experienced estate attorney to assist you and ensure that the will is executed according to law.