Estate planning is designed to provide for your loved ones after you are no longer able. This process has the best intentions for families and individuals, but it also highlights complexities, conflicts, and misunderstandings within families. Sometimes these underlying issues lead to will contests in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
It is important that you keep in mind the possibility of a will contest and your intention to preserve peace when you create your estate plan. Discussing the potential of a will contest and how to avoid it with your lawyer can be a great place to begin. You can also utilize these five tips in your estate planning.
#1: Put Your Plan in Place Early
The most common argument for contesting a will is that the decedent was unable to make informed, aware decisions. It is a legal requirement that the person executing the estate plan have the mental capacity to execute these important documents. Without the requisite mental capacity, the will, trust agreement, and other documents are invalid.
Therefore, you want an estate plan in place while you are young, healthy, and fully cognizant of your choices and the consequences. This will avoid any questions of your mental capacity to bequeath specific property, disinherit an individual, or provide for a person or organization that would otherwise not inherit under Iowa’s probate process.
#2: Provide Explanation for Disinheritance or Inequitable Distributions
After your death, there will not be an opportunity to explain the reason for disinheriting one of your children or providing an unequal distribution of your assets. However, you can provide a short statement of your reasoning as part of the estate planning process. As well, if you are including someone else in your inheritance, such as a stepchild, you may want to provide an explanation for that decision.
It is best to recognize your legal heirs under Iowa law, typically spouse and children. If an individual is disinherited, a sentence of explanation is helpful to family members and provides closure. Additionally, this statement is beneficial for the courts. It shows clear intent and prevents some questions of your mental capacity or possibility of undue influence.
#3: Review Your Estate Plan
You cannot simply toss your estate plan in a drawer and forget about it. Most estate planning attorneys in Iowa recommend you review your estate plan every five years. This review many not necessitate any changes to your estate plan, but verifies it is up to date. If any major life events occur within these five-year increments, you want to update your will immediately.
#4: Avoid Any Appearance of Undue Influence
Another reason family members may contest a will is because of possible undue influence on the testator. To avoid any argument of undue influence, anyone that is inheriting under your will should not be involved in drafting the document. For instance, if your son is going to inherit more property or assets than your two other children, do not have him assist with writing the will. This will avoid any appearance of undue influence.
The best method for drafting your will is to speak with an attorney on your own.
#5: Ensure Your Will Is Executed Correctly
Every state has specific requirements for execution of a will. Without following these exact processes in Iowa, a will is invalid. Anyone who wants to contest your will looks to these formalities to ensure all were properly carried out.
Avoid a Will Contest By Engaging an Attorney
Many wills are contested because online form documents do not fully or adequately express the testator’s wishes or are improperly executed. These online documents often lead to mistakes and inconsistencies. After your death, these mistakes are a source of contention among your family members. Instead, properly state your intentions and desires with the assistance of an estate planning lawyer.
Jack Ruesch at Telpner Peterson Law Firm is prepared to provide extensive and thorough estate planning that can fully protect your loved ones. Call our Council Bluffs office at 712-309-3738.