If you have complex assets, that can lead to a complicated will. Many wills become complex and long because the precise wording is designed to make sure your wishes are represented as specifically as possible. But if you're worried about potentially litigious heirs or family members, there are many strategies to limit interference and future legal challenges. Here are three:
1. Communicate your intentions to everyone who might be impacted by your will, not just heirs or recipients.
While some protests are started by individuals attempting to overrule your clear wishes, many challenges happen because people are surprised by the contents of your will. Family members who expected to receive an inheritance, or more of an inheritance, are protesting because of those expectations. Be sure to communicate your intentions as clearly as possible and as early as you feel is reasonable.
2. Create video evidence of your decisions.
There are a lot of arguments people can make to protest a particular portion of a will. Some of the most common include:
- Claims of forgery
- Claims that you were not mentally competent while signing the document
- Claims that there was an undue influence that lead to your decisions
One of the best ways to counter these arguments is to provide video evidence of you agreeing to, explaining, and signing the document. It leaves very little ground for continued claims or direct contests.
3. Add no-contest clauses.
The third strategy for minimizing challenges is to add no-contest clauses to the trusts or inheritances you provide for the claimant. These clauses, while relatively limited, make claimants forfeit their inheritance unless they have strong evidence and probable cause. If claimants why may want to misconstrue your will face losing the trust, they're less likely to make dissenting claims.
For more advice on creating a legally binding will that matches your exact wishes, contact us at The Law Offices of James C. Shields.
Attorney James C. Shields received his J.D. from Loyola Law School in 1985 and an M.B.A. in Finance from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1975. Attorney Shields also earned a B.A in Economics from California State University Dominguez Hills in 1973. He previously worked as an attorney at the Law Offices of Robert G. Winterbotham, and in 1998, he started his own law firm to emphasize on the practice areas of bankruptcy, wills and probate, estate planning and conservatorship, and traffic cases.
James C. Shields is a member of the State Bar of California, the State Bar of Arizona, and the State Bar of Oregon. He is also a longtime member of the American Bar Association, the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, and the Los Angeles County Bar Association.