With estate planning, it is important to take steps to prevent potential legal challenges to your will and any trusts you have set up.
But what if you find yourself on the other side of the equation, considering whether you should contest the estate of another?
Determining whether to move forward with a legal challenge to a family member’s estate can present an agonizing dilemma. However, if you believe that you have a valid reason to contest, an experienced probate lawyer can help you sort out the facts and determine the best course of action.
When Would You Consider Contesting a Will or Trust?
In some cases, challenging a will or trust legally is the right choice.
One of the most common reasons that people file legal action in this case is that they suspect someone previously exerted undue influence on the decedent.
This, unfortunately, is not uncommon, particularly if the deceased suffered from dementia or caretaker abuse. This scenario may provide the basis for a challenge based on the decedent’s lack of mental capacity.
You might also consider mounting a legal challenge if a trustee or executor fails to uphold their fiduciary duty or if the original documentation was improper in some way.
When Should You Not Contest a Trust or Will?
Are there times when you should not contest a trust or will?
Ultimately, you must make that decision based on the advice of your attorney. However, some trusts and wills are drawn up with a no-contest clause, which effectively bars the contestor from their benefits, should the legal action ultimately prove unsuccessful.
Although that should not automatically discourage you from considering a legal challenge, it is important to realize what you have at stake.
Another consideration involves the importance of your relationship with loved ones. Would legal action substantially damage your relationship with other involved family members? If so, you should weigh the pros and cons of the situation carefully before moving forward.
Lessons You Can Apply in Your Own Estate Planning
Reflect on the reasons you are considering legal action and put that knowledge to work in your own estate-planning activities.
By working closely with your attorney, you can build in provisions to help prevent improper actions by trustees and executors. You can also proactively establish protections that minimize the risk of anyone exerting undue influence over you in the future.
Most highly compensated individuals and business owners know they must plan for their eventual death. What they may overlook is the potential that they could become incapacitated or lose their mental faculties prior to death. By planning for these and other contingencies, you can minimize the chance that someone may consider legally contesting your trust or will.
Contact Cantley Dietrich today to learn more, or to schedule a consultation with an asset-protection and estate-planning attorney.