Did you know that one of the concerns people have when working on their estate plan, especially their will, is how to avoid a will contest after their death? What could the impact of a will contest be?  A contested will could lead to prolonged court battles, strained family relationships, and could possibly deplete the estate’s assets. However, to avoid these risks, there are important steps you can take right now in your estate planning and we would like to share them with you right here on our blog.

  1. Important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney.  Working with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney is absolutely essential. A skilled lawyer can help ensure that your estate plan is legally sound, adheres to state laws, and clearly articulates your wishes. Estate planning attorneys can also provide advice on ways to lessen the chances of a contest, including being sure all legal formalities are correctly followed. Be aware that it is important for you to share any specific concerns you may have about potential contests with your attorney and ask for advice to mitigate those risks.
  1. Important to think about speaking with your loved ones. Talk to your attorney first, but realize that transparency can often prevent misunderstandings and disputes. You may want to discuss your estate plan with your loved ones, as well as your goals. Now you do not have to divulge every detail, but explaining your decisions can help manage expectations and reduce the likelihood of surprises that could lead to any possible future contests.
  1. Important to select the right decision makers. Choosing trustworthy and competent agents, personal representatives,  and trustees is critical. Your decision makers will be responsible for working with your attorney to administer your estate and ensure your wishes are carried out. Their ability to handle the role effectively and communicate with beneficiaries can greatly impact the prevention of a dispute. You may want to discuss this important role with your decision makers to be sure they are willing and able to serve in this capacity before naming them in your estate plan. 
  1. Important to clearly plan out what you want. The easier your estate plan is to understand, the less room there is for interpretation or contention. By working with your Florida estate planning attorney you can be explicit about your wishes, including the distribution of specific assets. Your attorney may even recommend you write a letter that could accompany your estate plan for specific family members.
  1. Important to consider using tools like trusts to avoid probate. You should know that when you only use a last will and testament in your Florida estate plan your estate will need to go through the probate process. Be aware that the probate process is public and it may open your estate up to challenges. However, when you use a trust agreement and fund your assets into it, you can eliminate the need for probate and provide a more structured distribution through trust administration. 
  1. Important to regularly update your estate plan. With all the changes that life brings, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children, the sale of a business, or acquiring significant assets, there will need to be important updates to your Florida estate plan. When you regularly review and update your estate plan to reflect these life changes, you can rest assured that it accurately represents your current wishes and circumstances, reducing the potential for disputes.
  1. Important to think about the emotional impact of your estate plan. Finally, be aware of the emotional aspect of your estate plan, your death, and future inheritance. Unequal distributions or perceived slights can lead to hurt feelings and disputes within your family. Of course you cannot control how others feel and you do not have to consider this in your planning, but being as fair and thoughtful as possible in your approach can minimize negative emotions that might fuel a contest.

Finally, while it is impossible to guarantee that your Florida estate plan will not be contested, taking these steps can significantly reduce the risk. We highly recommend that you discuss your specific concerns with your Florida estate planning attorney and seek their advice. Together you can develop a comprehensive strategy that addresses potential challenges and works towards ensuring your final wishes are respected and your loved ones are cared for as intended.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. At Perlin Estate Planning & Probate our credentials enable us to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to our legal services.  By building relationships with our clients, we are also able to understand each client’s needs and desires, and we support such goals through thoughtful, comprehensive planning techniques. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting.