Unfortunately, one of the many situations that will lawyers in Houston encounter are will contests – legal fights between beneficiaries and/or would-be beneficiaries of an estate who disagree about inheritances.
Most often, these battles involve parties who were written out of a will, were left smaller inheritances than they thought they would receive, or who think the individual who wrote the Last Will and Testament was suffering from undue influence when the will was drafted. Will contests can tear families apart and cost everyone involved a lot of time, money, and heartbreak. While some will contests just cannot be avoided because of the personalities involved, there are some concrete steps you can take to let everyone know what your wishes are and protect your beneficiaries.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Proper estate planning with an experienced Houston will lawyer is one of the best ways to avoid a possible will contest. That is because wills and trusts attorneys are acutely aware of the types of issues that can lead family members and other beneficiaries to take each other to court when inheritances are involved. By carefully setting up your estate plan, you may avoid some of the common – and sometimes uncommon – pitfalls that lead to will contests. If possible, involve your adult children in the planning process so they will know exactly why you are making certain choices they may otherwise not understand. However, if it is not feasible to involve anyone else in your planning, there are still ways to…
Make Your Wishes Known
Most Houston will attorneys will agree that the biggest factor leading to will contests is beneficiaries who did not know, or questioned, why decisions pertaining to inheritances were made. It is strongly urged that after you have made your Last Will and Testament, you should explain to your beneficiaries why they will or will not be receiving the inheritances you have planned for them. A face-to-face meeting is often the best choice, but for obvious reasons it may not be the most comfortable setting to have this type of discussion. Instead, you may want to consider an alternative way of explaining your decisions, such as leaving a letter to be read after your death or creating a video will to be shown after you have passed.
If all else fails and you believe that a will contest will be inevitable no matter how much you have explained your decision, the best option left was to include a no contest clause, also known as a terrorem clause, in your Last Will and Testament. A no contest clause states that if anyone brings up a lawsuit that challenges the provisions of your Last Will and Testament, then that person will not receive anything in the event that they lose the case. The Supreme Court almost made this ineffective as they ruled that if a beneficiary has a good faith effort to contest, then they can’t lose. The better option it to put a different type of deterrent that we use in our office. It is very important to consult with a Houston will lawyer if you are considering putting a no contest clause in your Last Will and Testament since it is a drastic action to take against beneficiaries.
If you want more information about avoiding will contests, or if you are currently involved in a will contest situation, please contact us at (281) 218-0880 to set up a consultation.