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Leaving behind a rock-solid estate plan

You have given it a lot of thought and have finally decided the time is right to plan your estate. Perhaps you have a little money or some property to pass along, and you want to make sure they get into the right hands. More importantly, you may want to make sure they stay out of the wrong hands!

Creating a will to designate who will receive your assets is a considerate move that only a few people make. Too many people leave their estates unprotected, which may lead to disputes among family members, hurt feelings and lifelong resentment.

However, you will want to be assured that the document you create will not lead to even more confusion and heartache among your family members. This scenario is common when those who receive less than they expected from an estate decide to contest the will.

Making your will dispute-proof

If you decide to leave less to one heir than to another, you may consider including a no-contest clause in your will. This stipulates that any heir who challenges your will - and loses - gets nothing.

However, if you leave out people entirely, they may still contest your wishes. Some of them may argue that the will is invalid for any of these reasons:

  • You were not of sound mind when you made your estate plan.
  • Someone overly influenced you.
  • Your will does not follow the state requirements for validity.

There are a number of steps you can take to protect your will from these challenges.

Insulating your heirs against disputes

To avoid suggestions that you did not know what you were doing when you created your will, you can attach a doctor's note to the document. The note should confirm that you had the mental clarity to make the decisions in your plan. Even if there is no evidence of confusion or dementia, this step may preempt the claim.

In addition, you should discuss your decisions with your heirs. This will prevent people from saying that you simply forgot to include them in your will or that someone talked you into omitting them. Openly discussing your will also allows you to explain why some people were left out or did not receive as much.

Covering all the bases

The best way to ensure that all contingencies are considered is to ask a lawyer to help you draft your will. An attorney will know the laws of the state and provide you with every resource you need to create a document that will stand up in probate.

In addition, an attorney may suggest other estate planning tools, such as trusts, that may serve you better and direct your estate more completely. When your estate planning is complete, you and your loved ones will have peace of mind about the future.

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Melissa A. Proudian, Attorney at Law
1500 W. Shaw Avenue, Suite 403
Fresno, CA 93711

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