Your will is your final goodbye to your family members and friends, and you want it to be followed accordingly but drafting a will can be a difficult and emotional legal process. Anyone can contest your will if they believe that they could gain or lose something in the process, but connecting with an estate planning attorney can help decrease the likelihood of your will being contested.
What is a Will?
A will, or a last will and testament, is a statement of your last wishes to be carried out after you pass. When drafting your will, you must name the beneficiaries whom you wish to gain access to your assets after your death. This includes investment accounts, houses, cars, a jewelry collection, and many more things. Your will can also include requests of who will care for your children or pets.
It is important to draft a will before you die so that your final wishes are followed. Without one, your estate will fall into the hands of a judge. Though it is not possible to resolve every issue that arises after you pass, drafting a will is something that can come pretty close.
For a will to be legally valid, it must be certified by your local probate court after your passing. In Maryland, the probate process involves your personal representative submitting forms to the probate court to get permission to transfer the title of an asset to its intended heir. State laws for the probate process may vary, but it is important to follow the correct process to help guarantee that a will contest will not succeed.
How Do I Avoid a Will Contest?
When drafting and signing your will there is no guarantee that your will won’t be contested, but there are a few tips you can keep in mind to make it more difficult for someone to contest your will.
- Accurately Draft and Sign Your Will— This is the most important thing you can do to avoid your will being contested. You and two witnesses must both sign your will to prove that it is valid. Witnesses must be 18 or older and have the right mental capacity.
- Include a “No-Contest” Clause in Your Will— A “no-contest” clause or an “in terrorem” clause states that if an heir challenges your will and loses, they will receive nothing.
- State the Reason for a Reduced Share to your Attorney— If you intend on leaving someone out of your will or giving them a reduced share of your estate, you should tell your attorney so they can document the reason behind the reduced share. Include as much detail as possible to help avoid someone contesting your will.
- Talk to Your Beneficiaries Before You Pass– Inform your beneficiaries of your last wishes before you pass so that they are on the same page as you and you can avoid strife. Make sure to talk to your executor as well so that they understand the importance of their role.
It is difficult to avoid the grounds for contesting a will, but by following these steps, you can help guarantee that your final wishes are met.
Are There Any Alternatives to a Will?
Though there are no options that solely replace a will, there are some alternative estate planning documents that can work together to do similar things. These include living trusts, designating assets, and joint tendencies.
A living trust is a way to transfer the title of your assets while avoiding the probate process. All of your assets are placed into a trust and are managed by a trustee. The next alternative to a will is designating beneficiaries on eligible accounts. For assets like a bank account or a house, you may designate direct beneficiaries for each asset. Each asset will be distributed directly after your death and will avoid the probate process. However, you must request the correct forms from your bank in order to designate your direct beneficiaries. Keep in mind that you should also consider contingent beneficiaries if your primary beneficiary does not survive your death.
Joint tendencies also avoid the probate process and are common among married couples. After you pass, your assets or property will belong to the joint owner. At Lauenstein Law Firm, we offer alternatives to a will, such as trusts, life estate deeds, and beneficiaries on bank accounts.
Contact Douglas Lauenstein For Your Estate Planning Attorney Needs Today
Our team of trust experts will work with you to design a fool-proof estate plan that ensures your needs are met. Douglas C. Lauenstein, a Baltimore County attorney with decades of experience, is here to help you. To learn more about our services and the estate planning process, contact us to get in touch with an estate planning lawyer today.