Anyone who writes a will wants every one of their last wishes to be granted after they pass. But when a family member is unsatisfied with what they receive (or don’t receive) from your estate, your will may get challenged somewhere down the line. So aside from the grief of losing you, your loved ones would also have to deal with another stressful event that is a will challenge.
There are, however, a lot of ways you can prevent this from happening. While you are still alive, here are the best ways to keep your will from getting contested after you die:
1. Draft your will early
A will can get contested if a family member believes you were no longer of sound mind or were influenced by another family member (which tends to happen for the elderly). The best way to prevent this from happening is by drafting your will while you are still young and healthy. After all, you never know what could happen, so you shouldn’t wait too long to draft your will in the first place.
2. Get an attorney
Ask your trusted family attorney or estate planning attorney to help you with drafting and executing your will. If you feel that your will might get contested by some unsavory family members, bring up the concern to your attorney, and they will help you protect your will from challenges as much as possible.
3. Include a no-contest clause
A no-contest clause, also known as a terrorem clause, states that if anyone challenges your will, they will not receive anything from your estate if they lose the case. This is an excellent deterrent to anyone who might feel that they have not received enough from your will, which makes it a great way to protect your will from challenges.
However, there are some states that render this type of clause unenforceable, and thus useless. If you’re not sure about the laws in your area, talk to your attorney if adding the clause to your will is a worthwhile endeavor.
4. Talk to your family members
Explaining the reasons behind the decisions in your will can reduce the chances of your family members contesting them after you die. Talk to your immediate family members about your last wishes. If someone is getting left out or receiving a smaller share, explain the reasoning behind it.
However, this is easier said than done, especially for not-so-amicable families. If you can’t talk to certain family members in person, explain the reason in the will.
5. Prove competency
Another way to prevent a family member from challenging your will based on mental incompetency is to prove it with the help of your lawyer. To do this, your lawyer may ask you a certain set of questions or otherwise refer you to a doctor that can test your mental competency at that time.
6. Take a video
Record a video of you signing the will so that family members can see that you have freely signed it of your own volition. Video evidence of you willingly signing the will makes it all the more difficult for a will challenge to succeed, and is therefore a great deterrent for anyone who might be thinking of contesting your decisions.
However, don’t forget to keep this video in a secure place. Send a copy to your lawyer, first and foremost. Give your spouse, child, parents, and will executor copies as well, ideally both in digital version and in a physical storage device.
7. Go to the attorney alone
Another common reason why family members challenge is a will is because they think that another family member has exercised undue influence on you while drafting the will. This is especially true for families wherein one sibling is closer to the deceased parent than the others and has served as the main caregiver. While you may be confident that no one can exert undue influence on you right now, not everyone knows that.
That said, it’s best to remove the appearance of undue influence altogether, and you can do this by going to the attorney’s office on your own. If you cannot go there without assistance, bring someone who is not and will never be a part of your will, such as a professional caregiver or a neighbor.
Will challenges can drag on for months or even years, preventing beneficiaries from getting what they rightfully deserve from the estate. If you don’t want your family members to go through that additional layer of grief, start contest-proofing your will as early as possible, even if death seems like an impossibility right now.