If you have already taken the time to create a last will or an estate plan, you might think that you have done all you can to help your heirs avoid probate court after your death. However, there are other steps you can take that could benefit your heirs and your legacy in the future.
As your life shifts and changes, so, too, may the contents of your estate plan. This is why it is so important to review your estate plan routinely, at least once a year, and also discuss hopes about your legacy with your loved ones, especially when you make drastic changes.
An updated an accurate last will is harder to challenge
When your life situation changes, it can affect the accuracy of your last will. For example, if you divorce or your spouse dies, it may require careful reconsideration of your estate plan. Similarly, when you celebrate the birth of new children or grandchildren, this is another time that it is pertinent to review your estate plan.
You want to make sure that you remove people who are no longer living or part of your family, and you also want to make sure that you include every potential heir or close family member in your last will. Even if you do not intend to leave assets to a family member, outlining this fact in your last well may be a wise choice. It can prevent the individual from claiming their omission was an oversight and bringing a challenge against the estate in probate court later. Very outdated wills may be more vulnerable to challenges from family members.
Your family should know what to expect when it’s time to administer your estate
Nothing gives rise to last will and estate challenges as quickly as shattered expectations among your loved ones or heirs. Some people may develop unrealistic expectations for their inheritance over the years.
Perhaps one of your children believes they are your favorite, which they also believe should entitle them to a larger portion of your estate. Maybe you remarried later in life, and your children don’t feel like your spouse should receive a large portion of the estate. When the last will is contrary to the expectations or beliefs held by your close family members or heirs, it can lead to protracted battles and probate court.
Your best option is to embrace transparency when it comes to estate planning. Make sure your family members understand how you intend to split up your estate. This is particularly important if a certain family member is not to receive anything or has strict restrictions on their use of their inheritance, possibly through the creation of a spendthrift trust. When there are no surprises about the contents of your last will, it can reduce the possibility of someone challenging it due to disappointment.