Are there proactive strategies for avoiding inheritance disputes?

Beneficiaries of a will or trust might be surprised by the bequests left to them. But what happens when that initial surprise wears off? A legal challenge to a will or trust might be one outcome.

Can a grantor take proactive measures to minimize the risk of an inheritance dispute? Thanks to technology, the signing of a will or trust can be video recorded and easily uploaded or emailed to cloud storage or other accounts. If this approach is taken, it may be a good idea for the grantor to include some conversation that indicates that he or she is in a sound mental state and has the capacity to legally execute the document. Even the videographer could include conversation to help a court or subsequent audience verify the accuracy of the recording.

Another way to minimize the appearance of undue influence or impropriety is for the grantor to prepare and witness the will with an attorney, outside of the beneficiaries’ presence.

With a trust, an individual might accomplish transfers of assets or property during his or her life. With an irrevocable trust, a third-party trustee is given the authority to manage the trust according to the terms of the trust document. The trust principal is no longer considered the property of the grantor. An irrevocable trust that was created many years before the grantor’s passing might be better insulated against any legal challenges to contest it.

Of course, no one can predict his or her future medical condition. A debilitating illness or condition might deprive an individual of the capacity to make revisions to his or her estate-planning documents. However, if documents were created with an attorney’s help, even this contingency might be planned for and successfully navigated.

Related posts: “Can’t decide between estate planning options? Select several!” Jan. 9, 2015; “Is documentary proof required in estate planning?” Nov. 17, 2014

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