Your estate's executor is responsible for carrying out the wishes that are stated in your will. Unfortunately, some family members might not agree with those wishes and challenge the will. If you believe that there might be challenges to the will, there are some legal actions you can take now to avoid this.
Include a No-Contest Clause
A no-contest clause is used to discourage relatives from challenging your will. With the clause, anyone who challenges the will in court and loses, will be cut from receiving any inheritance. Even if you had designated that he or she was entitled to receive an inheritance, it is forfeited once the challenge is filed.
The no-contest clause does not apply if someone does not receive an inheritance. For instance, if you leave nothing to your sister and she challenges the will, she is not at risk of losing anything.
The specifics of the no-contest clause can differ from state to state. Check with your state's laws to find out whether or not the clause is allowed and under what circumstances.
Validate Your Will Before Death
Normally, the will is validated in probate court following the death of the will maker. However, if you fear challenges to your will, you can have it validated in court before you die.
There are many reasons to validate your will, including proving you are of sound mind. Instead of the executor having to fight to prove that you were mentally sound when you created the will, you can talk directly to the judge and inform him of your wishes.
Validating your will now is also a good idea if one of your family members is likely to claim that you have been unduly influenced in your estate planning. For instance, if your children are arguing that your caregiver is manipulating you into leaving part of your estate to him or her, you can inform the court otherwise.
It is important to note that even if you validate your will now, you still have the option of changing it later. If you do make changes to the will, you need to file a petition with the court to have the validated will removed. You can also choose to validate the new will.
Consult with an estate planning attorney such as Hamilton Michaelson & Hilty LLP to learn of other ways you can avoid challenges to your will. Since some methods can be state-specific, working with an attorney is imperative.