Lessons from a Will Contest
Post by: Lesley Hempfling
When I talk to clients about their family dynamics and relationships during a meeting for Will preparation, 99% of them all say the same thing - "oh, our family isn't one of those that would fight over money or things... we ALL get along... we don't have much anyway." What about the relationship with your new spouse and your children from your first marriage? What about the sibling rivalry that you told me about in passing during our initial meeting? What about the fact that you are giving Son Sam your house and Daughter Debbie a few checking accounts?
We all want to believe that our family will act in a loving and generous way after we pass, but the reality is that a lot of times they don't. I have seen too many people (family!) fight over the most invaluable items and cease communications with the other family members, making litigation not only a possibility -- a sure thing! While sometimes there is no way around it, here are some tips for hedging your bets and avoiding a Will Contest:
• Talk to your beneficiaries about your decisions (and reasons for them) before you die;
• Document lifetime gifts and lifetime loans to beneficiaries and make sure your beneficiaries understand what is a gift and what is a loan;
• If you are cutting someone who would naturally inherit (e.g. a child or spouse) out of your Will, detail why you are disinheriting them in your Will and do NOT leave them a nominal gift (e.g. $5.00 to my son, Harry, who never visits me);
• Consider including a No Contest provision in your Will;
• Consider including a mediation provision in your Will;
• Consult an estate planning attorney when drafting your Will and do not rely on Internet forms to assist you in this very important task.