Do you have your suspicions that one of your heirs might be dissatisfied with the way you’ve structured your estate plan? Are your children apt to fight over their inheritances? If you’re worried that your loved ones might be unhappy enough with your will to contest it in court, you might want to meet with an estate planning attorney and talk about whether a living trust would be a better option.
Unlike a will, a properly funded living trust allows your assets to avoid probate. And, while this does not guarantee that there will be no litigation over your estate, it helps to reduce the chances of estate litigation for a couple of reasons:
- A living trust is much more private than a will. When you die, your will has to be filed with the probate court before your property can be distributed to your heirs and beneficiaries. Probate is a public proceeding, which means that your will is available to anyone who wants to see it. Plus, when your estate is probated, a notice is published in your local newspaper announcing this fact to your creditors – and anyone else who wants to find out. All of this makes it very easy for disgruntled family members to learn the terms of your will and decide to fight it. A living trust, on the other hand, can be settled in private, and its terms only have to be disclosed under much more limited circumstances.
- A living trust is not settled in court. There’s no probate involved, so anyone who wants to contest the terms of your trust must initiate a lawsuit. This is not as easy as simply joining in a probate proceeding that’s already in progress.
Choosing a living trust over a will is just one strategy for reducing the likelihood of estate litigation. Your estate planning attorney can help you uncover all your options and choose the strategy that’s best for you.
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