In our previous post, we began looking at various strategies and approaches to estate planning that will help reduce the likelihood of a will contest later on down the road. As we noted, will contests typically involve disgruntled family members or close friends who feel they’ve the testator’s will treats them unjustly or inequitably.
We left off discussing “no-contest” clauses, and noted that-while they can reduce the possibility of a will contest-they can be declared void in at least one situation. Under Georgia law, such provisions must provide for the disposition of the property in the event that the conditions for forfeiture are fulfilled. Of course, knowing this ahead of time allows one to do the proper planning.
One approach that can really do a lot to help prevent a will contest is to communicate with one’s family about the reasons the will says what it says. For many families, even those with a moderate degree of conflict, this can go a long way in calming the confusion and anger that is at the root of so many will contests.
One should be careful about over-communicating one’s plans, particularly before they are set down in the will. To remove the appearance of undue influence, the testator does well to draft the will independently and without input from the family, especially any family members providing caretaking services. That said, communicating about one’s decisions after they are made can be very helpful in helping family members begin to accept those decisions.
Another approach to the will contest issue is to look into a trust-based estate plan and make use of lifetime gifting to achieve one’s intentions.
The possibility of a will contest, like any concern in estate planning, should be thoroughly communicated to one’s estate planning attorney. Once these concerns are on the table, options can be explored for addressing them in the best way possible.
Forbes, “Did Artist Thomas Kinkade Change His Will While Drunk?,” Danielle and Andy Mayoras, July 9, 2012
Forbes, “How to Prevent a Will Contest,” Bernard A. Krooks, May 10, 2012