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Careful planning to avoid will and trust contests

When people are preparing to draft a will or set up a trust in Oklahoma, they do so with the idea that their assets will be passed to their intended beneficiaries according to their wishes. This desire can be derailed if, after the testator or grantor dies, a disgruntled potential beneficiary files a challenge to the will or to the trust.

Will and trust contests are lawsuits that challenge the validity of a will that has been submitted for probate or a trust that has been established to handle the assets of the estate. In order to file a challenge, the challenger must have standing to do so. Examples of those who will have standing include disinherited beneficiaries or disadvantaged ones. An example can be a charity that was designated as a beneficiary of an earlier will that is left out of a later-drafted one. Others can include disgruntled family members who believe they should have received a greater portion of the estate or who stood to benefit but were disinherited.

People should consider several ways to minimize the risk of such a future contest. If they clearly communicate their estate plan with their family members and beneficiaries, confusion may be avoided. Getting help with drafting the documents may assist them in avoiding errors that can lead to a declaration of invalidity. Regularly reviewing a will and trust documents in order to update information as needed may also be an important step.

Through careful planning, most will and trust contests can be avoided. These contests can have the effect of using up a significant amount of the assets of an estate in order for the executor to defend against the proceedings. It is often important to discuss avoiding potential contests when talking about the estate administration process with an attorney.

Source: Wealth Management, "Will and Trust Contests 101", December 28, 2014

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