Creating a strong will and estate plan is one of the strongest ways a person can establish a legacy to leave behind them. However, as any estate planning professional will tell you, simply crafting a will or estate plan is not always enough to protect one’s wishes for their estate. Often, one or more parties may challenge a will, causing significant conflict between beneficiaries and often altering the wishes of the will’s creator.
If you suspect that someone may challenge your will and complicate your legacy, there are steps you can take to keep your wishes for the estate secure. With a well-built estate plan and will, and some additional protections put in place, it is possible to ensure that your wishes for your property and beneficiaries remain intact. If you have not reviewed your will and estate plan for weaknesses, now is the time to do so.
Using no-contest clauses
Typically, when a party chooses to challenge a will, it is because they believe that the will itself is unjust. Depending on the circumstances, such a person may drag out the process of distributing a decedent’s property, incurring significant legal costs along the way. In some instances, this process may deplete the value of the decedent’s estate, causing all beneficiaries involved to receive less than intended.
One of the tools that the law provides to defend against such attacks on your estate is a no-contest clause. In order for someone to challenge a will, they must have “standing” in the eyes of the law. While it is not always clear who has legal standing in a given circumstance, the law generally limits standing to individuals who are either named in a will, or those who are not named, but would receive or lose some benefits if a court deems a will invalid.
No-contest clauses present a take-it-or-leave-it scenario to beneficiaries and challengers of a will. If a party chooses to challenge a will where a no-contest clause applies, they receive no benefits at all if they lose their challenge in court.
While this protection does not entirely do away with challenges to a will, it raises the stakes of a challenge considerably. In many instances, a party may challenge a will simply because they are unsatisfied with the terms of the will and their benefit from it. In some cases, a party may still choose to challenge a will with a no-contest clause, but they assume much more risk of loss when they do so.
Protect your legacy while you can
Planning for the future is an important part of life at almost every stage. However, some of us do not realize how important it is to act now instead of waiting for a more convenient time. If you have concerns about the security of your legacy, be sure to use high quality legal resources and guidance as you review your will and estate plan, to keep your legacy safe and to give you peace of mind.