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Estate planning should help assure the fair and timely distribution of your estate. But a will contest can lead to estate litigation which can cause delay, stress, and costs for your heirs. There are some precautions which may prevent a legal challenge to your will.

Act now

Putting off estate planning and drafting a will is a major mistake. The time to undertake this process is when you are fully competent to make informed decisions and understand their potential consequences.

Will contests may be avoided when you recognize an issue and address it promptly.

Putting off planning or revising an existing plan until an emergency or illness may raise questions on whether you were competent or under duress.

Keep plans current

After you make an estate plan, do not cross it off your to do list and forget about it. The plan should be reviewed and updated, if necessary, every year to deal with any significant changes. This can eliminate any objections to your plan and assure your family that you dealt with changing family and financial situations.

No-contest clauses

These are also called in terroem clauses. A will or revocable living trust can include a no contest clause which provides that an heir or beneficiary will receive nothing from the estate if they file a lawsuit to challenging a will or trust. These must be drafted carefully to comply with Ohio law.

Discretion

Keep your family informed about your estate plan so they can prepare to act after your death, and they understand the decisions that you made. This can also help avoid hurt feelings and misunderstandings.

Boasting and sharing details about an estate plan with others, however, can provoke resentment and a will contest. This is especially risky when it appears that a family member is cut off from an inheritance or other restrictions were imposed because of problems such as substance abuse or financial irresponsibility.

Trusts

Revocable living trusts may be one method to prevent a will contest. Unlike a will which is filed for probate, a trust is a personal document that remains private.

A revocable living trust may be in effect during a person’s life. Wills only go into effect after its maker dies.

Discretionary lifetime trusts may be established for beneficiaries who have problems and could waste their inheritance. These trusts may be flexible and encourage the completion of personal and financial goals such as finishing education or completing drug or alcohol rehabilitation.

An attorney can help with planning that meets your needs. They can also help assure that rights are protected during legal estate challenges.