Family dynamics are complicated and prone to conflict during even the best of times, but when tragedy strikes a key member of the household, minor tensions and disagreements can explode into bitter conflict. And when access to money is involved, the potential for discord is exponentially increased. I have found that blended families can fight the most when a parent dies.
The good news is you can dramatically reduce the odds of such conflict by enlisting the support of an experienced lawyer like us to assist you in creating your estate plan. Even the best set of documents will be unable to anticipate and navigate the complex emotional dynamics that make up your life and family, but we can.
Contesting the validity of wills and trusts
The validity of your will and/or trust can be contested in court for a few different reasons. If such a contest is successful, the court declares your will or trust invalid, which effectively means the document(s) never existed in the first place. Obviously, this would likely be disastrous for everyone involved, especially your intended beneficiaries.
However, just because someone disagrees with what he or she received in your will or trust doesn’t mean that person can contest it. Whether or not the individual agrees with the terms of your plan is irrelevant; it is your plan after all. Rather, he or she must prove that your plan is invalid (and should be thrown out) based on one or more of the following legal grounds:
● The document was improperly executed (signed, witnessed, and/or notarized) as required by state law.
● You did not have the necessary mental capacity at the time you created the document to understand what you were doing.
● Someone unduly influenced or coerced you into creating or changing the document.
● The document was procured by fraud.
Furthermore, only those individuals with “legal standing” can contest your will or trust. Just because someone was intimately involved in your life, even if they’re a blood relative, doesn’t automatically mean they can legally contest your plan.
Those with the potential for legal standing generally fall into two categories: 1) Family members who would inherit, or inherit more, under state law if you never created the document. 2) Beneficiaries (family, friends, and charities) named or given a larger bequest in a previous version of the document.
If you have a blended family, it’s also essential that you meet with all affected parties while you’re still alive (and of sound mind) to clearly explain your wishes in person. Sharing your intentions and hopes for the future with your spouse and children is key to avoiding disagreements over your true wishes for them.
Prevent disputes before they happen
The best way to deal with estate planning disputes is to do everything possible to make sure they never occur in the first place. This means working with us, the Soto Law Group, APC as your Estate Planning Lawyer, to put planning strategies in place aimed at anticipating and avoiding common sources of conflict. Moreover, it means constantly reviewing and updating your plan to keep pace with your changing circumstances and family dynamics.
Whether the potential dispute arises from disgruntled heirs, sibling rivalries, or the conflicting interests of members of your blended family, we are trained to predict and prevent such conflicts. Meet with us today to learn more.
We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.
That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, You can begin by calling our office, the Soto Law Group, today at 760-610-0519 to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention Sun City Insider.