Having to go through the court process to settle a loved one’s estate can be stressful on many levels. Probate litigation can turn family members into sworn enemies and convert inheritance into legal fees. Worst of all, an estate that is caught up in probate litigation due to ambiguity and questions surrounding the deceased’s wishes can leave lasting emotional scars.
Fortunately, there are actions you can take to protect your estate and loved ones from the agony that comes with probate litigation. Here are three steps that can make clear your wishes and reduce the possibility of your loved ones getting embroiled in costly and unnecessary probate litigation.
Make your wishes known
It sounds straightforward. However, it is important that you make known to your heirs your wishes on how you want your estate distributed upon your demise. This is especially crucial when dealing with atypical disposition, that is not to natural heirs. If you want your assets distributed unevenly, or if you wish to have a child left out of your inheritance, you should discuss this with them and leave a written document explaining your wishes.
Have your estate documents in perfect order
It is important that all your estate documents are properly prepared with the help of a knowledgeable and trusted estate planning attorney. One of the major causes of probate litigation is improperly written wills, trusts and estate plans. Stay away from online estate plan mills that are likely to leave your documents rife with ambiguities. A properly written estate plan that reflects your specific circumstances will give you peace of mind knowing that your estate will be distributed quickly in accordance with your wishes.
Keep your estate plan up to date
Your entire estate plan can become a subject of litigation if you did not add or remove beneficiaries due to changes in your circumstances and relations with them. Your estate plan review and update should also take into account changes to state and federal legislations.
Probate litigation can have a lasting financial and emotional impact on your loved ones. Fortunately, you can avoid such litigation through communication, proper documentation and a well-written and updated estate plan.