3 Strategies to Avoid a Will Contest by Disgruntled Family Members

Estate Planning

How many times have you watched a movie where someone left all of their hard-earned property to their intended beneficiaries (like their known kids) and then, out of the blue, an outside child (whom they didn’t even know existed) contests the validity of the will?

Unfortunately, these types of shenanigans occur every single day. If you want to make sure that this situation doesn’t happen to you or your intended beneficiaries, there are certain things you can do to protect your loved ones.

Properly execute your will in the first place

Hire an experienced estate planning attorney, like the ones at Ibekwe Law,to create and execute an iron-clad will that identifies what assets you’d like to go to whom. If you want, you can even videotape the signing so your family members can see that you signed it. Either way, make sure that the document is appropriately signed and witnessed by not one but two individuals who can also attest to your competency if needed.

Leave nothing to chance

If your will favors one of your children by leaving more to one than the others, make sure that none of your kids is present during the signing so they can’t claim the receiving child influenced your decision. Then, explain to all family members that you left a certain portion to one relative and why you made the decisions that you did. If they understand the reasoning behind your choice, they’ll be less likely to contest it.

You might even choose to give something valuable to the family member whom you suspect might challenge, and ask your attorney to add a “no-contest clause” so that if this family member contests the will, they get nothing at all.

Understand the probate process

In Texas, once an individual dies, the beneficiaries and executor must prove that the will is valid. If they challenge the will’s validity before it enters probate, the process stops. However, the burden to prove the invalidity of the will falls on the contesting individual. After the probate court receives the will and the appropriate application to probate that will, there is a two-week hold, and a notice is posted at the courthouse. After this period expires, probate begins and the court declares that it is valid and appoints an executor to oversee the process.

After that, disgruntled family members have up to two years to contest the wills’ validity, and offspring born outside the marriage or those who were adopted may have up to four years to contest. Additionally, if it is discovered that the will was forged, the time to contest will be extended by two years after the fraud is discovered.

In conclusion, we love our family members and we strive to do the best for them. Although we never want to think about disgruntled family members contesting our will and making life difficult for our intended heirs, unfortunately, family drama exists.

The good news is that there are ways you can prevent this situation by following the above-mentioned tips. Ibekwe Law can help draft a will that stands up to being contested. Contact us today!