Careful estate planning can keep your property out of probate, which means that your loved ones inherit as much of your resources and assets as possible.
Few things will diminish your legacy as quickly and as significantly as probate litigation. While you may have planned carefully to allocate your property after you die, it’s possible that your loved ones could decide that they don’t agree with your plan or that they feel entitled to inherit more.
Especially if there have always been squabbles between certain family members, it’s possible that your family could wind up dragging your estate through probate, reducing the legacy you leave for them and damaging their relationship all at the same time. Thankfully, the three tips below can significantly reduce the likelihood of major probate complications.
Make a comprehensive plan, and continue to review it frequently
One common reason for estates to wind up litigated is that the testator only provides a last will and no explanation for their wishes. They may have drafted the will decades ago and never updated it.
Family members may feel confused, disappointed or frustrated, leading to challenges. The more robust your estate plan is, the harder it will be for people to bring unfounded challenges against it. You might want to add a letter of intent, powers of attorney or even a trust to your estate plan to make it more thorough and harder to challenge. Frequently reviewing and updating it will also make it harder to challenge.
Consider adding a no-contest clause
Historically, Indiana has been one of two states that did not enforce no-contest clauses. However, that changed in 2018. Now, testators can add a no-contest clause to their estate plan that disinherits someone who brings a frivolous challenge against their estate.
The courts can uphold the clause and disinherit someone for contesting an estate. They can also choose to waive the clause if the issue arose because of probable cause or good faith.
Tell your loved ones what you planned for your legacy
It can be very hard to talk about your own death and money with the people that you love, but avoiding these conversations won’t benefit anyone. The earlier people understand your wishes, the less likely they are to feel shocked and disappointed about the administration of your estate.
Letting the family know is particularly important if you intend to leave an unequal inheritance, set resources aside for charity or disinherit a family member. Thinking over your family circumstances can give you a better idea about what estate planning steps will be necessary to protect your legacy from unnecessary probate litigation when you die.