The death of a family member often generates enough emotion and confusion for the grief-stricken, but a will contest can amplify family tension even further. If one family member is unhappy with what they received or failed to receive through the will, he or she may take the action to the next level by contesting the will. While there’s no guarantee that you’ll prevent all your relatives from arguing over your estate, there are several steps you can take to minimize the chances of a will contest.
Unfortunately, a will contest can last for several years. This, combined with the aggravation from your other beneficiaries, is one of the primary reasons that people try to prevent their wills from being contested by having them developed by an experienced attorney. There are a few elements that can help reduce the chances that a will contest in the future will be successful.
Here are some of the best ways to protect your will from becoming a source of conflict for your family members in the future:
Execute it properly
This step is easy enough if you work with a Texas estate planning attorney. In order for the will to be classified as valid, you’ll need to have it signed and witnessed.
Include a no-contest clause
This plan only has potential to work if you are leaving something of value to a family member who may be disgruntled in the future. The no-contest clause states that if any heir challenges the validity of the will and loses their case, he or she forfeits anything that was left to them. This can be a tricky act to balance, because in order for it to work, you need to leave the heir something of enough value to make it not worth their time to fight.
Explain the reasoning behind your decision
Family members may be less likely to contest the will if you walk through your reasoning with them. If you can’t imagine actually having this conversation with your family members, you may want to state it outright in the will or include a letter with the will.
Prove Your Competency
One of the most common reasons that a will is challenged has to do with arguments that the family member who created wasn’t competent at the time. Ensure that your estate planning attorney tests you for competency at the time the will is drafted. It could involve answering questions or seeing a doctor.
Record the Will Signing
If you have a videotape of you signing the will, it can show your family members and officers of the court that you were freely signing the document. It also makes it harder for a family member to argue that you lacked the mental capacity to agree to the will’s terms.
Planning ahead can go a long way in reducing the chances of a will contest. Work only with an experienced Texas estate planning firm to ensure the details of your will are accurate and valid.