It takes a lifetime to build up a valuable estate. Many people spend 30 years paying off the mortgage on their home, and it can take as long, if not longer, to develop substantial assets and other areas. You likely wish to be the one in control of how your assets get distributed after you die.
After all, an estate plan, in many ways, is how you create your own legacy for the world. You expect that your executor, and heirs, will respect and follow the requirements in your last will. Sadly, everyday, people choose to contest a loved one’s will. They may do this because they think one person will influence the will too much, or they may just want more of the estate. Thankfully, there are certain things you can do to reduce the risk of your heirs fighting over your assets after you pass on.
Communication is key to establishing reasonable expectations
For many families, the issues with an estate relate to unrealistic expectations by heirs. For example, if one of your grandchildren feels like he or she is your favorite, that could lead to expecting a bigger portion of your estate than other grandchildren. If the will includes equitable shares for each grandchild, the person who considers himself or herself your favorite could feel upset. That could motivate a challenge to the estate plan or last will.
Your best option for reducing this kind of conflict is to talk openly with your family members and heirs about your estate plan. If everyone knows what to expect before you die, they will not feel as upset or shocked by the contents of your will after you pass.
It is particularly important that you address reducing someone’s inheritance or disinheriting somebody from your family. Issues like substance abuse or criminal activity could lead you to disinherit a family member. Those same issues, however, will not preclude that individual from challenging your will at a later time. In some situations, creating a trust may also be a way to ensure that your heirs receive a reasonable amount of the estate without the potential for squandering it.
Include a no-contest clause in your will and tell your heirs
A no-contest clause is a special addition to your will that penalizes anyone who challenges your estate plan or will in court. Penalties can range from reduction of an inheritance to the complete elimination of it in some circumstances. Most of the time, New York probate courts uphold no contest clauses. There are some exceptions that you need to understand.
In a situation where the deceased disinherits an infant or an heir has probable cause to suspect a forgery or undue influence, the courts may allow a challenge without the consequences of a no-contest clause. In most other circumstances, the courts will uphold such a clause.
Knowing that he or she could lose out on everything in the inheritance could be enough to dissuade an unhappy heir from challenging your will. Make sure your family knows about this clause and the potential penalties, along with the rest of the contents of your will. Communication with your family is one of the best tools for reducing the likelihood of unhappy heirs after you pass away.