When you create a will, the process of drafting it with an experienced estate planning attorney is relatively straightforward. However, if someone who has a vested interest in its content or outcome challenges your will, you may need to take additional steps to protect it from being contested.
Here are six tips for protecting your will from challenges and making sure that it’s enforceable.
Understand the Formalities
Estate planning is a serious matter. It can be overwhelming and stressful to put together all of the necessary documents, but it’s worth taking the time so that your loved ones do not face an expensive court battle over their inheritance.
One way to make sure you cover all your bases is by using pre-printed fill-in-the-blank will forms that give you a starting point. The form should include all the necessary legal language and boilerplate clauses, but they allow you to customize what happens with your assets when you die or become incapacitated.
Understanding the formalities will help you protect your will from a challenge and ensure that everyone’s entitled to their fair share.
Create a Plan
Estate planning lawyers recommend that you create a plan. Plans can be complicated, and you can tailor them to your specific desires. But at the very least, they will protect against common risks such as unexpected death or incapacitation.
An estate-planning consultant is crucial for drawing up wills, trusts, powers of attorney, medical directives, and other documents necessary to assure an heir’s inheritance is protected from potential challengers in court (or probate). If not available through a lawyer or financial advisor, there are many online resources with detailed information on each type of document needed.
Generally, it takes about three hours over four months to complete all these steps yourself without legal help; hiring professionals may take less time than that but costs more.
If an individual has a will, it is usually the first step in their estate planning process. A plan can be as simple or complex as desired by including such elements as trusts, power of attorney for finances and medical decisions, life insurance policies to provide supplemental income or protection after death, funeral arrangements, and provisions for pets. An experienced probate lawyer can help guide individuals through this process to know what they need to do now and which future steps to undertake.
Get a Witness
A will is a document that people put together to ensure their property or money goes where they want it to go after death. It’s essential for your family and loved ones because, without the will, the state will have everything and decide how to distribute your assets.
The problem with this is that states may not have any say about what you wanted for inheritance – so don’t take anything as a given! If someone challenges the validity of your will, there must be two witnesses who can testify that they heard you declare yourself mentally competent before signing it. They are then looked upon much more favorably than just one witness alone.
Hire a Probate Lawyer
It may be the most crucial step on your list. The probate lawyers will help you navigate through this process and ensure you do everything successfully. Nothing is delayed or held up in court, which can happen if there are any challenges to your will’s validity. Remember, when it comes to estate planning, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Hiring this lawyer can help you avoid many errors people usually make when drafting their wills. It is because they are experienced and know all about preparing will correctly, satisfying specific legal requirements. In addition, your estate planning attorney should be able to advise on what documents need signing for your plan to work effectively and answer any questions or queries you may have regarding this process.
Store Your Documents Safely
Your estate plan is a document that your loved ones can use when you are gone, so storing your documents in an airtight container can help protect them from water or fire. Also, it means always keep copies of irreplaceable records, like birth and death certificates, for the executor to hold onto until they need them.
Other items to store safely include wills, trusts (living trusts), powers of attorney, health care directives, and other necessary paperwork related to taking care of all assets. You need to ensure there is someone who will take on these responsibilities after your passing. You may also want to talk about burial wishes-whether it’s cremation or direct disposal-and make arrangements for survivors’ final expenses.
Review Your Plan and Update Accordingly
Review your will at least every couple of years. You should also get an updated copy if you have had any children since the last time you reviewed it, as this may affect their inheritance and how much they receive. Another possible update is to ensure that you account for all assets in your plan, like checking bank statements or recent purchases.
Consider whether anyone listed as a benefactor would still be alive when you made distributions. If so, revise accordingly or consider removing the person from your will. If you have significant assets, consider using trusts in place of wills to avoid probate and provide for distribution after death without court involvement or delays.
Consider revoking a beneficiary designation if it no longer makes sense, like if someone has died. Then, review these points annually and adjust as needed to ensure that your estate plan reflects current life circumstances.
In conclusion, it is essential to understand the formality of your will, create a plan for those who might challenge it, and review that plan every few years. You can also protect yourself by storing documents in a safe place with someone you trust, such as an attorney or accountant. Trusting these methods not only protects your will from being challenged but provides peace of mind knowing that everything is taken care of in the event anything were to happen before you’re able to do so on your own.