With a longer life span in the U.S. today there are more opportunities to create potential challenges to a will with second marriages and more money accumulated over a lifetime.
USA Today discussed measures that can be enacted that will help reduce the possibility of challenges to your estate in “5 ways to make a bulletproof will.”
Among the measures are:
- The no-contest clause. This provision will discourage people from disputing a will. It means that if you challenge the will, you get nothing. This clause can make beneficiaries think long and hard about trying to get more than you bequeath them.
- Emphasize your wishes verbally. Creating your will may seem to be a personal and private task. However, you should really try to communicate with your heirs to avoid unintended turmoil after your death. If you tell your loved ones while you’re alive, you can explain your rationale. It also makes it more decided that your choices are yours alone—making it more difficult to successfully contest the will. It also allows heirs to understand your wishes, which might help defuse hard feelings.
- Ask your doctor to verify your mental health. A valid will must be made by someone of sound mind. Disgruntled heirs may question whether you were in your right mind when you made the will and could argue to a judge to disregard your wishes. To avoid this, older individuals should include a doctor’s note that confirms their mental capacity with the will.
- Get a lawyer. The do-it-yourself, fill-in-the-blanks will-preparation software is inexpensive and convenient. However, it's risky to go with the cheapest option when you have so much to lose. It’s similar to what astronaut Alan Shepard said before blast-off: “It's a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one's safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract.” A cheap online will may not be up-to-date with current laws, which could open the door for challenges.
- Consider a living trust. A living trust legally transfers your assets to designated beneficiaries. However, a trust is private, where a will is a public record. Also, the legal time frame to challenge a trust is usually shorter than for wills, plus a living trust will include directions for your finances in the event you are incapacitated. A will doesn’t have this.
An estate planning attorney can guide you in creating an estate plan that is likely to carry out your wishes.
Reference: USA Today (Sept. 27, 2016) “5 ways to make a bulletproof will”