Legacy Assurance Plan of America’s for Estate Planning – When famed actor Mickey Rooney died earlier this year, some reports estimated his estate to be worth as little as $18,000. That, however, did not stop Rooney’s family from fighting about the actor’s will. This is not necessarily surprising as, sometimes, it is the smallest estates that produce the biggest estate battles after the testator dies.
So, what can you do to avoid a messy situation or painful showdown over your assets after you die? One thing is to communicate with your loved ones. By sharing your wishes with everyone affected by the terms of your will or living trust, you can minimize the chance of an uncomfortable surprise. You should also be certain that your estate planning documents communicate clearly about why you made your choices. If you are leaving a loved one nothing because you gave that person gifts of significant value during your lifetime, spelling out that reasoning can potentially be beneficial, both for that loved one and for a court, if a legal challenge occurs.
You should clearly mention all of your children, and make some provision for them. Even if you do not wish to leave them an inheritance, leaving them a nominal amount, such as $1, may help avoid problems. That’s because, if you make no provision for a child, he/she can claim in court that the omission was an oversight, and that he/she is entitled to a fraction of your total estate in accordance with the portion stated in your state’s statutes.
Both wills and living trusts can be challenged in court. These cases are generally difficult for the challenging party to win. The person mounting the challenge must show that you were mentally incompetent when you created your will or trust, that you were under the improper influence of another person when you made your will or trust or that your estate plan was the product of fraud. Communicating clearly about the goals, objectives and reasons for your plan is especially important if you are disinheriting immediate relatives, are providing a substantial inheritance to distant relatives or non-relatives, or maqke changes to your plan on your “death-bed.”
If you are concerned that a loved one may be dissatisfied with the size of his/her inheritance, one possible option is a “no-contest” clause. A no-contest clause potentially dissuades beneficiaries from challenging your estate plan by saying that, if a beneficiary goes to court, then that beneficiary does not get his/her inheritance, but instead gets a nominal amount, like $1. No-contest clauses are not legally enforceable in all states, however.
Summary: There is no such thing as a “bulletproof” estate plan that cannot be challenged in court. However, there are steps, both legal and non-legal, that you can take to reduce the likelihood that anyone would choose to challenge your plan and you can get help from Legacy Assurance Plan Of America. The key to most of these steps is clear communication, so that your estate planning desires and objectives, along with your state of mind, are clear to your loved ones, and to a court if your plan becomes the subject of a challenge