An estate plan can represent hours of planning and hundreds of dollars of investment. If you spent time and money to create one, you probably have a specific legacy that you want to leave for the people you love.
Unfortunately, no matter how carefully you try to avoid probate, your family members could undo all of that work. Groundless challenges against your wishes could complicate the administration of your estate and result in months of probate proceedings that drastically reduce the assets you wanted to leave to the people you love. When is it possible for your family to challenge your wishes?
People can challenge an estate plan if they have cause
Dissatisfaction with a will or the hope of a bigger inheritance is not a justification to challenge someone’s wishes. However, there are multiple situations that the courts will consider grounds for a challenge.
These include undue influence by an outside party, fraud and lack of testamentary capacity. The courts will usually also allow people to challenge estate plans if they have terms that violate state law.
How can you prevent challenges?
There are several ways that you can reduce the likelihood of someone dragging your estate through probate court. Being upfront with your family members about your wishes is crucial because realistic expectations can keep people from bringing a challenge.
You may also want to consider adding a no-contest clause to your will to disinherit those who try to get more than you want to leave them. It is also possible to include a trust in your estate plan to make challenges more difficult and give you more control over your legacy.
Any of these strategies can be valuable for preventing challenges. Some of them, like the creation of a trust, have the additional benefit of helping you avoid probate.