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Work with experienced attorney to minimize potential will disputes after death

In previous posts, we took a brief look at some of the pitfalls folks sometimes fall into with will in their estate planning efforts. As we noted last time, one of these pitfalls is simply assuming that having a will can prevent family fighting after one’s death. While having a will certainly can help prevent disputes, this requires careful planning, proper drafting, and additional legwork to help ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

There are a number of things that can and should be done to help ensure the effectiveness of a last will and testament. For starters, it is important to work with an experienced attorney who can see to it that the will is property executed. In Florida, this means the proper signatures must be on the document, witnesses must have been present, properly signed and acknowledged the document. Proper execution also includes revoking previous wills, incorporating other estate planning documents, and properly executing codicils. Ensuring proper formalities cuts out one potential source of dispute. 

Another important task in reducing the likelihood of family fighting over a will is to take precautions to prevent will contests based on lack of capacity and insane delusion. This can be done by fully establishing the individual’s presence of mind, understanding of his or her assets, and understanding of how the asses are to be disposed under the will. Steps can also be taken to minimize the possibility of will challenges based on allegations of undue influence and fraud. These can be more difficult to avoid, in some ways, but certain steps can be taken with the help of an experienced attorney.

Florida law does not recognize “in terrorem” or “no contest” clauses as enforceable, so attempting to prevent will contests by threatening to disinherit those who pursue them is ineffectual in this state. One important step that can and should be taken, though, is to discuss one’s estate plan with family and friends well in advance of death to ensure that everybody has a clear understanding of one’s wishes. This can be done both verbally and in written form, outside the will itself.

Whatever the specific challenges an individual faces in estate planning, working with an experienced estate planning attorney can help ensure that proper precautions are taken to avoid will disputes after death. 

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Tannenbaum Scro, P.L.
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