If you've taken the time to create a last will or estate plan, chances are good that you have family members, loved ones or heirs that you want to receive specific assets from your estate. Whether you hope to provide financial security for a special needs child or grandchild or want to ensure that each of your children receives certain, specific assets, estate planning allows you control over how your possessions get disbursed after your passing.
Sadly, there are often situations where family members, friends or other loved ones could challenge a will, dragging your estate through probate court. It can take months or even years to settle estate disputes. If you've taken the time to create a last will or estate plan, you have every reason to want it followed after you die. Thankfully, there are a couple steps you can take to reduce the risk of someone challenging your wishes.
Make sure your heirs understand what to expect
One of the biggest sources of contests and complaints about last wills and estate plans is unmet expectations. People in your life may feel entitled to certain assets or a particular percentage of your estate. If the contents of your last will or estate plan deviate wildly from what individuals in your life expected or hoped for, that could result in someone challenging your last will.
Don't hide your intentions, especially in cases where you're not leaving assets to someone who expects them or where one heir receives far more or less than others. Talking with your family about the contents of your will and estate plan can help ensure that everyone understands what to expect and reduces the chance that someone will contest the will after receiving an unpleasant shock.
Consider a 'no-contest' clause in your last will with caution
When you're making or updating your last will, estate plan or trust, you might want to consider adding a no-contest clause. These clauses are particularly valuable if you have a family member you believe could challenge your last will for his or her own financial gain, without a sufficient legal basis. It may be a good idea for you to let your family members and heirs are all aware of the inclusion of this clause, as that alone could prevent them from contesting your last wishes in court.
A no-contest clause may allow you to reduce or even eliminate the inheritance or assets allocated to an heir or family member if that person contests the content of your will in court. In Minnesota, however, a no-contest clause is enforceable only in limited circumstances. The clause may effectively reduce the risk of a challenge to the will.
Minnesota law requires a person to should probable cause to challenge a will that includes a no-contest clause. If the court finds sufficient reason for the challenge, the clause is not enforceable. In other words, if family members challenge your will without a really good reason, they will lose out on part or all of the inheritance you planned to leave them.