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Taking steps to challenge-proof your estate plan

The last thing you may want is to leave behind a situation that will fuel a dispute among your children or other heirs. Perhaps your family dynamic is already volatile, and you fear that some of the decisions you have made for the distribution of your assets may spark a battle in which there will be no real winners.

You are right if you believe that writing a will is one way to reduce the chances of arguments and challenges to your estate distribution. However, you may not realize that under certain circumstances, your heirs may challenge your will, creating exactly the situation you are trying to avoid. With the right legal help, you can create an estate plan that will minimize any options your heirs may have for fighting over your estate.

Start with a will

Your heirs have limited grounds for challenging a will that is valid according to Tennessee probate laws. One of those grounds is testamentary capacity, which means that the challenger believes you were not capable of making informed decisions about your estate. The surest way to avoid this is to prepare your will early, while you are in good health.

You may also avoid a question of testamentary capacity by discussing your estate planning decisions with your heirs so they are aware of the contents of your will before you pass. Some people like to keep their plans secret, but shocking revelations after you pass may seem to your heirs like decisions you made when you were not thinking clearly. If you discuss your plans with your heirs, you may avoid the claim that your will does not express your real wishes.

Make it tight

Many who worry about their heirs contesting their wills add a no-contest clause. This provision states that anyone who challenges your estate plan in court forfeits the rights to his or her share of the estate. If you decide to use this in your estate plan, you would be wise to discuss Tennessee laws with a skilled attorney.

Trusts are another way to minimize the chances of estate contests. A trust holds ownership of your assets during your life, and those assets bypass probate and many of its tax ramifications. You can also structure a trust for discretionary purposes by creating incentives for your heirs before they can claim their inheritance. An attorney can help you with this too. In fact, reaching out to a Tennessee attorney can provide you with solid information about your best options for creating an estate plan that is challenge proof.

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Spragins, Barnett & Cobb, PLC
312 East Lafayette
Jackson, TN 38301

Phone: 731-300-1592
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