Headlines about high-value litigation cases commonly occur when a lawsuit is filed and when verdict is rendered, but few take into account the time that passes between those seminal events. For estate litigation (otherwise known as will contests), a “quick” settlement may occur 16 to 18 months after a suit is filed. For contested matters that reach a verdict, the average time is 2 to 3 years.
Because of this, it is critical for your estate plan to be written carefully in order to avoid conflict among beneficiaries. This post will provide a few tips.
Don’t count on everyone getting along – The goals and ideals of your beneficiaries may be aligned right now, but everyone’s circumstances could change, which could leave them battling over what they should be entitled to after your passing. As such, it is unwise to assume that everyone will simply get along and figure things out for themselves. Making decisions now can eliminate callous fighting.
Be cautious when disinheriting children – Simply put, a disinherited child is more likely to challenge your will than anyone else. Being disinherited can be seen as the ultimate betrayal and can bring about a pain that may engulf others in its wake. Instead of disinheriting a child, perhaps establishing a trust that is controlled by responsible trustees may be a better option.
Don’t be afraid to communicate – Some may steadfastly believe that withholding the intent of your will is essential, but this reasoning is not universal. It may be beneficial to communicate your estate plan, or at least part of it, so that certain aspects of your estate are not harmed (such as a business). There are no hard and fast rules regarding communication about your estate, but an experienced attorney can advise you.