Are There Steps To Take To Avoid A Will Contest?

will contests can be avoided with proper planning

Did you know that creating a Florida estate plan is a critical component to the protection of not just your person but the protection of everything you love? When you create a valid Florida estate plan, you are creating lifetime documents that can give legal authority to another person of your choosing. This person you choose will now have the ability to make your decisions should something happen to you resulting in your inability to make decisions during your lifetime. Lifetime protection, however, is just part of the equation.

For most people, creating a Florida estate plan is about creating a legacy as well. It is important to them to decide what to do with their hard-earned assets at the time of their passing. They want to create a legacy through their estate plan that will provide for their intended beneficiaries, not just in the present but often for years to come. Our clients let us know, in almost every meeting we have, just how important solidifying the future for their loved ones is.

What happens, though, when even the best laid plans you have created are not well received? What happens if your thoughtful design for your legacy comes under attack because third parties, such as creditors, business partners, relatives, and even your own children, do not agree with what you intended? How do you prevent your careful planning from coming under attack and potentially being undone?

We deeply understand these concerns. Let us share with you several key steps to take early to limit the chance an estate plan contest will arise and ultimately be successful.

  1. Identify early any potential complications. Is there a person or persons in your life that you do not want to inherit from you? Are there business partners or employees who you do not want to be included if you are no longer here? If you have a business, do you want it to continue without you? Can it be sold? Is there anyone in your life, potentially, including an adult child, who you absolutely do not want to be making your decisions at the time of your incapacity or death? Taking the time to identify potential complications early and sharing them with your Florida estate planning attorney will be critical to avoid any potential contests down the line.
  2. Do not go it alone with your Florida estate planning, either in the creation or in the updates or amendments of your documents. There are strict laws to be followed when you want your estate plan to work. While you can read about signing provisions, execution requirements, notarization requirements, and much more, your best defense to potential legal challenges is the experience of a Florida estate planning attorney who you choose to work with. This Florida estate planning attorney will understand your goals, your values, what you do and do not want, and will be able to support you both in life as well as at the time of your passing, especially if any challenges arise.
  3. Consider letting others know your wishes for your legacy. While many of our clients choose to keep their Florida estate planning goals and choices confidential, you do not have to. Communication is invaluable in all situations, and nowhere does this hold more weight than with the understanding of what you want for your legacy. Letting key decision makers, and even beneficiaries, know your wishes early on may be a critical step in helping them understand why you made certain choices. Before taking this step, discuss the pros and cons with your Florida estate planning attorney.
  4. Consider trust planning, not will planning, as a part of your estate plan. Despite much public misinformation, a Florida last will and testament does not avoid the probate process. The last will and testament, instead, ensures that a probate may be needed. Probate is a public proceeding and can give a forum for challenges to your Florida estate plan. With most Florida trust planning, however, the probate process can be avoided, and your trust administration process can be kept private.
  5. Hire an experienced Florida estate planning attorney. There is no substitute for experience in this area. Your Florida estate planning attorney, with years of experience and training, will be able to help you navigate these challenges both while you are creating your Florida estate plan as well as in the event of your incapacity or death. It is important to discuss any and all concerns you have related to potential conflict at the time of your passing with your Florida estate planning attorney early on so you can receive guidance on what the best course of action may be. Secrets, uncertainty, or surprises in this area do not benefit anyone and in fact can damage your planning if they are not disclosed in full when you meet with your Florida estate planning attorney.

We know this blog may raise more questions than answers. Our estate planning law firm takes a very different approach from what you might have come to expect. Our goal is to create lifelong relationships with each of our clients, to guide and manage your legacy for the rest of your life. Please contact our offices in Stuart and in Palm City to learn more.

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