How to Avoid a Probate Dispute

How to Avoid a Probate Dispute

The death of a loved one is already filled with feelings of grief, and dealing with probate litigation can add more stress to your family during this vulnerable time. Probate dispute cases can be emotional and demanding for all parties. They can be laden with extra fees and delay availability of assets for heirs. To avoid a probate dispute among your family members, take some time to clarify the intended division of your assets.

Make a Detailed Will

Probate disputes often arise from wills that are vague or incomplete. Make sure all assets are taken into account, including personal property. Even items with little monetary value can hold emotional significance and lead to disputes. Include a specific bequest or personal property memorandum to leave specific items to the people who should have them.

To eliminate any room for assumption among family members, have your will prepared properly by legal counsel. Experienced trust litigation lawyers will have the tools to create a nearly dispute-proof document using their knowledge of litigation. In the case that a dispute occurs, having a properly prepared will can help the court determine your intent.

Update Documents Regularly

Creating a detailed will can do a great deal to decrease the chances of a dispute, but if the will is not updated as changes occur, new reasons for dispute could arise. Divorce, procurement of new property, death of a beneficiary or any other change to your assets and those who might receive them should be grounds for an update to your documents.

Use No Contest Clauses

A no contest clause can act as a safety net to make sure a dispute does not occur. Essentially, a no contest clause states that anyone who challenges the provisions of the will cannot receive their designated inheritance. In a way, it allows deceased parties to have control over what happens to their property after they are gone.

Carefully Choose an Executor

The executor of your estate has the responsibility of protecting your property and ensuring it is transferred to the entitled heirs appropriately. Your executor must be honest and have the ability to effectively communicate your wishes. Traditionally, the executor is the oldest child of the deceased, but this does not have to be the case. If your executor performs the duties bestowed upon him or her with integrity, your inheritors will be less likely to call for litigation.

Release Trust Funds Prior to Death

Rather than relying on a post-death will to guide your heirs, you can set up a trust that they can access before your death. There can be no dispute over funds that are legally in a beneficiary’s name. You can set up the trust to be either revocable or irrevocable. In the case of a revocable trust, you have control and can terminate it whenever you please. Irrevocable trusts put the control completely in the hands of the appointed trustee.

Clearly Communicate Intentions

Though not legally binding, talking with your loved ones about the intentions of your will can help to eliminate any confusion. If you decide to leave some of your assets to a non-family member or unequally distribute your funds, it might be helpful to explain this to your children and grandchildren. Knowing what to expect can minimize the chances of hurtful surprises that lead to dispute.

Leave your family with a clear indication of where you want your assets to go in order to avoid a probate dispute. Counsel from experienced attorney, Todd A. Zuckerbrod, can help you form effective estate planning strategies that will eliminate confusion among your loved ones and get your assets where you want them to go.