You have worked hard all your life to amass the estate assets you have. Whether you have a modest estate or a large estate, chances are good that you want to leave what you have to your family and loved ones when you die. Furthermore, you probably hope to accomplish the transfer of assets without any drama or conflict; however, the realist in you is concerned that someone may be unhappy with the terms of your estate plan which could easily lead to a lengthy, and costly, legal battle over your estate. What can you do now to minimize family fights over your estate when you die?
Most of us know someone who has been involved in an estate battle following the death of a family member. Not only can a Will contest cause the probate process to drag on for months, even years, but it will also significantly diminish the value of your estate after all the fees involved in defending your Will are deducted from the estate. Of even more importance though is the fact that a challenge to your Last Will and Testament can cause a rift in the family that may never fully heal as everyone involved is forced to choose a side. Unfortunately, there is no sure fire way to prevent family feuds over an estate; however, there are some strategies that will significantly diminish the possibility, including:
- Include a “no-contest clause” in your Will. This is a provision that essentially results in a beneficiary forfeiting the gift you leave for him/her is a Will contest is filed and is not successful. To work, however, you must leave the beneficiary enough of a gift that he/she will not want to give it up.
- Draft a “Letter of Instructions.” As the term sounds, a Letter of Instructions allows you to explain decisions you made in your estate plan, ask beneficiaries to do specific things with the gifts you left them, or provide additional instructions for any part of your plan. A Letter of Instruction, however, is not legally binding.
- Discuss the terms now. Although it may be a bit uncomfortable, an possibly lead to conflict, discussing the terms of your estate plan with everyone involved now allows you at least the possibility of resolving any conflicts or hurt feelings now, before you are gone and unable to do anything.
- Consult an estate planning attorney. The smartest thing you can do is consult an estate planning attorney before getting started on your plan. Your attorney will likely have additional specific ideas for your plan that can help reduce the possibility of family feuding when you are gone.
If you have additional questions or concerns about your Texas estate plan, contact the experienced Texas estate planning attorneys at The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. by calling 281-759-3213 to schedule your appointment today.