For those who take the time to picture their own funeral and how they would like to be remembered by their family after they are gone, few people picture their family members angry and upset, arguing over who gets this or that. Yet (unfortunately), whenever there is money or valuable assets – financially valuable or sentimentally valuable – tempers can flare and arguments can erupt if someone does not feel they received what they expected.
A strong estate plan is no guarantee that these sorts of disagreements and hurt feelings will not develop before or after your passing. Knowing what individuals can actually (legally) do to frustrate or foil your plans, as well as what you can do to make your estate plan a solid as possible, can help alleviate worries that fights and bickering amongst your heirs will consume your family after your passing.
Know Who Can File a Will Contest or Other Challenge to Your Estate
While any number of people may be upset by the way you want to distribute your assets and belongings, not everyone can actually file a legal action that challenges your plan. In order to do so, a threshold requirement is that a person must have legal standing to file a challenge to your estate. Standing refers to having or potentially having a legally-recognized interest in your estate, and typically your heirs – your children or grandchildren, siblings, or parents (depending on your situation) – have the necessary standing to bring a challenge to your estate’s distribution.
However, if you create an estate plan at some point that names other beneficiaries like a close friend of yours, an educational institution, or a not-for-profit agency, then these beneficiaries may have standing to contest your estate plan if you later change it to exclude them.
Clearly-Worded Estate Plans Help Avoid Confusion and Needless Litigation
One of the best ways to avoid litigation that can eat away at your assets and the resources of your loved ones is to create an estate plan that is as specific and comprehensive as possible. While a will or a trust that encompasses “all of [your] possessions of whatever kind and wherever located” and that benefits “all heirs of [you]” may be considered encompassing, the lack of specificity can lead to trouble later. “Did [you] mean to include the family heirlooms that came into [your] possession shortly before your death?” “Was your will meant to also include the child you adopted a few years after you updated your trust?” Taking the time upfront to eliminate as many of these questions as possible through specific directions in your estate plan can pay dividends later.
Clearly communicating your final wishes to your family (or, at least, to trusted family members) and indicating when and how those final wishes change can also limit the length of legal challenges to your estate. A foundation, not-for-profit, or other beneficiary’s argument that the court should recognize an outdated will that you had since amended becomes more difficult to sustain when there are numerous credible witnesses, each able to testify when and under what circumstances you changed your estate plan.
Dawes Legal, LLC is Here to Simplify and Solidify Your Estate Plan
Partnering with an estate planning law firm in Ohio with years of experience can mean the difference between having an estate plan that carries out your final wishes without much hassle or legal drama and having a plan (or no plan at all) that leads to bickering and confusion. One of the best gifts you can give to your heirs and beneficiaries is a specific and well-worded will, trust, or estate plan that clearly informs others how you want your affairs to be handled. Let Dawes Legal, LLC use its experience and knowledge to help you do this: call (614) 733-9999 to schedule a consultation with Dawes Legal, LLC today.