By Doug Sisson, W M Law Paralegal
Your beneficiaries’ fondness of one another may be out of your control, in life or death. With that in mind, the following tips and considerations will help you avoid future litigation, or at least minimize it to avoid that steep attorney bill many fail to account for: “The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” – Robert Frost
- Plan when you are healthy
When you fall ill, all of you mental and physical resources should be devoted to getting better, not drafting an estate plan. One should devise an estate plan and ponder their family dynamics while you are well and of sound mind. If you wait until you fall ill to draft your plan, it may be poorly drafted, or may not be completed at all. Devising a plan while you are well also relieving the burden from family members who may be left guessing your final wishes or medical decisions.
- Seek quality independent legal advice free from undue influence
Online resources (such as this blog) can aid in a rough idea of what you will need, but not much more than that. DIY estate plans can also create a huge liability as they are more susceptible to being challenged if found to be too ambiguous or executed under undue influence. Seek a qualified independent attorney free from the influence of your beneficiaries (not your uncle’s fishing buddy). Even if you already have an estate plan, it is not a bad idea to get a second opinion from another attorney who may note unforeseen liabilities.
- Use a revocable living trust to avoid probate
Drafting, and funding a revocable “living” trust with your monies and property is one of the best ways to avoid probate litigation. While probate is not always a contentious emotional affair, having to file through probate court inherently gives heirs, creditors, or the government a chance to intervene and file a claim. When an estate goes through probate, not only are heirs and beneficiaries notified, but all other family members you may have disinherited at that point. Probate can open a bee’s nest you had never knew existed. Remember rule #1 – AVOID PROBATE.