Estate planning is generally intended to ensure your assets get distributed to your heirs in the way you want them to be. All too often, despite the best efforts of a person to create a last will and estate plan, their family members don’t agree. People will happily fight their family members in court if they believe they will get even a little bit more of the estate.
If someone in your family contests your last will or estate plan, chances are that your estate will end up in California probate court. The greater your total assets, the more likely that someone will contest your will and force your estate through court.
Part of the reason you created a last will was to prevent the involvement of the courts. You probably spent quite some time considering what the fairest and most appropriate division of your assets would be. There may be someone in your family whose lifestyle you don’t want to fund, or a special needs grandchild who will need more support and care than the rest of your family.
If someone contests your last will, the people you left out could end up inheriting, and those that you were trying your hardest to protect may end up losing out on a portion or even all of their intended and planned inheritance.
Working with an attorney reduces the risk of a contested estate
If you create an estate plan as early as possible in your life and update it regularly as your family changes and expands, your estate plan and last will stand a better chance of holding up if challenged in probate court. Working with an attorney who understands California estate and probate laws can improve the chances of execution of your last exactly as you intended.
Your attorney can help ensure you include language to protect those you want to inherit, as well as language to explain why certain people were omitted from the last will. It’s even possible to prevent a contested will via words.
By adding a clause that clearly states that anyone who contests your last will immediately forfeits his or her portion of the estate, you significantly reduce the chances of someone trying to drag your estate through probate court. That may seem a little harsh, but it is your estate and your property.
Your last will should be carried out according to your wishes, not the wishes of people who feel entitled to part of your estate. When you need to create an accurate and legally defensible estate plan and last will, you need the help of an experienced probate and estate law attorney.