Proactive Estate Planning Measures You Can Take to Prevent Disputes Over Your Will

Were you aware that one of the key concerns people have when considering Florida estate planning and the drafting of a will, is how to avoid a will contest after their death? Sadly, a will contest can lead to prolonged court battles, strained family relationships, and can significantly deplete the estate’s assets. To avoid these risks, there are seven steps you can take now in your estate planning. We would like to share these steps with you below.

  1. Be sure to work with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney. First and foremost, it is important to work with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney. A skilled lawyer will be sure that your Florida estate plan is legally sound, adheres to state laws, and clearly articulates your wishes. Your attorney can also provide advice on strategies to minimize the chances of a will contest, including ensuring all legal formalities are correctly followed. Be sure to share any specific concerns you may have about potential contests with your attorney and ask for tailored advice to avoid those risks.


  1. Be sure to think about speaking with your loved ones. You will want to speak with your attorney first but be aware that transparency can help in avoiding misunderstandings and disputes. You may want to discuss your estate plan as well as your goals with your loved ones. This does not mean you need to divulge every detail, but explaining your decisions can help manage expectations and reduce the likelihood of surprises that could lead to future contests.


  1. Be sure to choose the right decision makers. It is absolutely essential that you select trustworthy and competent agents, personal representatives, and trustees. These are the individuals who will be responsible for working with an 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 influence the probability of a dispute. Also, you may want to discuss this important role with them to ensure they are willing to serve in this capacity before naming them in your estate plan. 


  1. Be sure to plan out what you want clearly. The clearer your estate plan, the less room there is for interpretation or contention. Work with your experienced Florida estate planning attorney to 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. Be sure to consider using tools like trusts to avoid probate. One of the complications of using only a last will and testament in your estate plan is that your estate will need to go through the probate process. This process is public and could open your estate up to challenges. On the other hand, 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. Be sure to update your Florida estate plan on a regular basis. Were you aware that life changes, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children, the sale of a business, or acquiring significant assets, necessitates updates to your estate plan? They do. When you regularly review and update your plan to reflect these changes, you ensure that it accurately represents your current wishes and circumstances, reducing the potential for disputes.


  1. Be sure to think about the emotional impact of your plan. Of course your death, your estate plan and future inheritances will be emotional. Unequal distributions or perceived slights can lead to hurt feelings and disputes within your family. 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 the steps above can significantly reduce the risk. By discussing your specific concerns with your experienced Florida estate planning attorney and seeking their advice, 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 raises more questions than it answers. We know this article raises more questions than it answers. Elder and Estate Planning Attorneys, PA, is a law office small enough to provide personal service but large enough to provide service in Jupiter, as well as Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River Counties in Florida. Our law firm will guide you through legal challenges involving elder law, estate planning, trusts, veterans benefits, real estate, and more. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with our attorneys.