After you pass away, your executor will have to read, communicate, and execute your last will and testament. Your estate will be dispersed to different loved ones and friends based on the clauses of your will. No will is perfect, especially in the eyes of jealous family members or people who feel as though they deserve specific pieces of your estate. In some cases, the will may be contested and looked at by a judge in probate court.
There are many reasons why a loved one would want to contest a will, including:
- They feel that the deceased’s last wishes are not being honored properly
- The will was not executed properly or does not meet state laws
- The signer was forced to execute his or her will
- The will is fraudulent
Will contests are legal, but expensive for your family, and may result in your true wishes not being honored after your death. To avoid a will contest after your death, consider the following tips.
Tip #1: Update Your Will
Certain conflicts throughout your life may alter the relationships with your spouse or family, and therefore alter the people you want involved in your will. Continue to update your will so that when you pass away, your estate plan and wishes best reflect your intentions and feelings at the end of your life.
Tip #2: Create Trusts
Trusts are separate documents that allow you to easily transfer assets without probate litigation. Since trusts are not subject to probate, they are harder to challenge. Your estate planning attorney will help you select the best documents for different assets that will be transferred from your estate.
Tip #3: Communicate with Beneficiaries
If you are worried about your will being contested, be sure to openly communicate your intentions and explain your estate plan to your spouse, family members, or anyone else included (or intentionally left out) of your will. For extra security, document these interactions. These conversations are not always easy to have, but will save your loved ones a big headache after you pass away.
Tip #4: Consult with Your Estate Planning Attorney
Wills that are not properly written or executed will not be seen as valid. Consider the following Florida laws when you are drafting your will:
- Holographic and nuncupative wills are not valid.
- Written wills are valid as long as all other criteria are met.
- There must be two witnesses present in order to make a will valid.
- Out-of-state wills are valid, but the executor of that will must be a Florida resident or blood relative of the deceased.
A Quick Note About “No Contest” Clauses
In some states, you can include a “no contest” clause in your will. These clauses deter family and friends from contesting a will by saying that anyone who does try to contest will automatically inherit nothing.
Unfortunately, these clauses are unenforceable in Florida. You can include this clause in your will to communicate your desires to leave your will uncontested, but the clause is not a guaranteed way to legally prohibit will contests.
Probate laws and litigation processes are always changing. To make sure your will is valid and will not be contested by your loved ones, consult with an estate planning attorney today.
About the Author:
Christopher Q. Wintter is the President of Wintter & Associates, P.A. , a four-lawyer trust and estate firm. Mr. Wintter is a Florida Bar Board-Certified Expert in Trust and Estate Law. With more than 28 years’ experience as a practicing attorney, he also serves as an instructor and faculty member for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA)—the nation’s leading provider of legal advocacy skills training to practicing attorneys—and has earned the AV® Preeminent™ rating with LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell. He was also selected for inclusion in Florida Super Lawyers Magazine for 2011, 2012, and 2014-2016 in Estate and Trust Litigation, and was selected for inclusion to the Best Lawyers in America in 2016 in the area of Estate and Trust Litigation.