Cases involving inheritance disputes, will contests and probate litigation are often complex and result in families being torn apart. To avoid these types of legal disputes, an individual would be wise to take steps to ensure that his or her estate plan is complete, updated and valid.
Frequently, family members may contest a will based upon a belief that a loved one had dementia or otherwise lacked mental capacity upon executing the document. In some cases, this may be true and a will contest should be pursued. In other cases, however, an individual may intentionally disinherit certain family members or leave large amounts of assets to others outside the family.
By the time most estate disputes arise, the individual in question has passed and is not able to explain or defend his or her decision. It's wise, therefore, to take steps to prove the validity and intent of one's estate planning decisions upon executing or amending a will.
For example, if an individual plans to disinherit a child or close family member, it's wise to make mention of the disinheritance in a will. Doing so proves that disinheritance was intentional and makes it harder to dispute. Likewise in cases where an individual plans to leave assets to a non-relative or organization, it's wise to state one's intent in a will.
Other ways to protect against possible estate disputes after one's passing include hiring a professional videographer to record the signing of a will or other estate planning documents, ensuring beneficiaries aren't involved in the drafting or executing of a will and selecting trustworthy and responsible individuals to witness the signing of a will. Additionally, an individual may choose to share the contents of their will and estate planning wishes with family members while still alive.
Source: Huffington Post, "Preventing Common Inheritance Disputes," Brad Reid, Sept. 23, 2014