Far too often, what one intends as a final expression of generosity towards friends and family turns sour when the beneficiaries of a will let gratitude give way to greed. No matter the size of your estate, you can stop future quibbling before it begins by planning your estate carefully.
Most often, when people challenge a will, it is because they feel that haven’t been given a fair share. One way to prevent this from happening is by treating everyone in a certain category equally, according to your relationship with that category as a whole. For instance, if you have four children, this could mean leaving a quarter of your estate to each child. This simple measure can prevent any of the beneficiaries from feeling like they got the short end of the bargain. If you do intend to leave someone out of your will who might otherwise expect to be included, make sure you do so explicitly so that they cannot later claim that they were omitted as an oversight.
Another important consideration is how to treat any exchanges of money during your lifetime with the beneficiaries of your will. Even if you give money to a beneficiary with the intent that it be a gift, the other beneficiaries may argue after your death that it was merely a loan and that the person who received the money should have it deducted from their share of your estate. To prevent confusion, is best to put such transactions in writing at the time you make them. Furthermore, if you do make a loan to a beneficiary of your will, make sure to write down whether it should be forgiven at your death or if it should come out of that person’s share of your estate.
The division of personal property is also a common source of contention among a will’s beneficiaries. Oftentimes, a will simply states that the deceased person’s personal property should be divided into a number of shares without specifically stating who should receive which items. This approach creates a great deal of potential conflict, since beneficiaries are likely to disagree over the distribution.
Another useful tool for preventing estate disputes is what is known as a “no-contest” clause. This is a provision of the will that causes any beneficiary who challenges the will to forfeit his or her portion of the estate.
When done correctly, a will ensures that your heirs will benefit from your estate in a smooth and uncontested manner. If you have yet to create a will, contact an estate planning lawyer in your area.