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Take steps to avoid any contest to your last wills and estates

A contested last will is a nightmare. It can drag an estate through probate, taking months and resulting in thousands of dollars going to court costs and other fees. For the testator, the person who created the will, having those last wishes contested in court is a final insult. Generally, if you take the time to create an estate plan or a last will, you do it because you want to see your assets divided a certain way.

Unfortunately, family members and other heirs may not see things your way. Some people believe that they should get more of an estate than was left to them. Others may have reason to believe that the executor of the estate isn't doing a good job. Thankfully, you can take certain steps to avoid contestations and protracted battles in probate court.

Update your will to make sure it's accurate

When your family grows through marriage, adoption or birth, you need to update your will or estate plan. The same is true when there's a death or divorce in the family. Making sure that your will and estate plan are up to date make it easier to protect against contestations.

An accurate and legally sound will is much harder for a family member or heir to contest in court. In some cases, you may also want to consider creating a trust to protect special assets.

Talk to your heirs about what to expect

The best way to make sure that everyone is on the same page about your last will and estate plan is to share your intentions with your loved ones, family members and friends. This is especially important if you've decided to leave someone out of the will. That information can come as a shock after you pass, leading the person involved to feel like contesting the will is his or her only choice.

When the people in your life understand what inheritance to expect, administration of your estate can be a much smoother process. Of course, there is still potential for people to contest the will out of self-interest or even greed.

Consider a no contest clause

If you have reason to worry that one person may contest the will for personal gain, you can take steps to protect against that as well. You can have a no contest clause written into your will that reduces or even eliminates the inheritance of anyone who contests the will.

New York enforces these clauses in probate court. In fact, New York is one of fourteen states that will enforce a clause against contesting a will even if the courts believe the person contesting it acted out of good faith. Advising your heirs of the inclusion of one of these clauses could be enough to stop any of them from contesting the terms of your will or estate plan.

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