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Preventing probate/estate disputes : work with an experienced attorney, P.3

In recent posts, we’ve been looking at the topic of probate disputes. Last time, we pointed out some of the factors that can increase the likelihood of such disputes occurring. In addition to the factors we’ve already mentioned, the likelihood of probate disputes occurring is increased by the failure to update an estate plan and by poor planning strategies, of which there are many possible examples.

There are a number of precautions that can be taken to prevent these disputes from occurring. The appropriate precautions depend on the goals of the estate plan and the family circumstances of the individual. The primary precaution to take, for one engaging in estate planning, is to work with an experienced attorney and to keep open the lines of communication.

An experienced attorney will help ensure that an individual understands the legal consequences certain actions may have with respect to the individual’s estate plan, and that the estate plan is updated when significant changes take place. An experienced advocate will also emphasize planning for contingencies like mental incapacity and carefully selecting fiduciaries.

For individuals who have an estate plan which might be considered unusual and therefore more likely to trigger a legal contest in probate court, certain precautions can be taken to dissuade others from complicating the legal process or to make it harder to raise a legitimate legal issue.

Keeping family members informed about an estate plan is another important precautionary measure that can be taken. Family members who are aware of the contents of an estate plan and the desires of the individual who implemented it are less likely to pursue litigation out of the shock of surprise.

In short, an experienced advocate will help ensure that an individual’s estate plan is tailored to meet his or her goals, that it takes his or her specific circumstances into account and that it is protected, as far as can be, from legal challenges. 

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