The person you name in your will as your estate manager will begin the probate process of verifying your will after your passing. During this process, beneficiaries can contest the terms of your will, which can lead to them overturning your will, and your loved ones may not act out your wishes in the way you thought. While the laws vary by state, and there’s no way to guarantee no contest, there are ways to help prevent your family from contesting your final wishes.
Execute Your Will Early and Properly
When writing your will, it’s important to do so long before any illnesses or injuries fall upon you. This is so that it’s easier to prove that you were in the right state of mind and had all your mental faculties when you wrote the will.
As you may already know, the process of writing a will and ensuring its validity is a complex one, meaning doing it yourself can leave your wishes open to contest. One of the benefits of hiring an estate planning attorney is that they can help you form as airtight of a will as possible to avoid future contests. They have the knowledge to ensure everything goes as smoothly as it possibly can, and again, while there isn’t a way to guarantee no contest, they can give you better peace of mind.
Keep Your Will Updated and Talk With Your Family
You should read and review your will every three to five years or after any major life event that occurs in the family, such as divorce, marriage, death, or birth. Changes in the law can also occur, such as changes in tax law, which require you to rearrange certain details.
While you don’t need to inform your family of every update and detail, it helps to keep them informed. Letting beneficiaries know about your wishes and intentions can help ensure that your will is enacted the way you intended it to be.
Include a Self-Proving Clause or No-Contest Clause
A self-proving clause, also known as a self-proving affidavit, is simple to include. It’s a one-page form that has your name and the names of your witnesses. When signed by you and your witnesses, it confirms that the will is legal and valid, making it harder to contest.
You can also include a no-contest clause, which states that if any of the beneficiaries contest the contents of your will, they revoke the right to receive anything from your estate. While this is a great tactic for deterring litigation, it doesn’t leave any room to resolve any errors that may genuinely arise.
Form a Revocable Living Trust
If you so choose, you can avoid having a will altogether, and in truth, it’s one of the best ways to prevent your family from contesting your final wishes. A revocable living trust allows you to place your assets into a trust, and while the trust technically owns the funds, you can still spend your money as you please. After your passing, the trust will disperse your assets according to what you stated in the trust’s terms. This way, your assets won’t go through the probate process and can’t be challenged, mitigating arguments and preventing familial rifts.