It is possible that few in California realize how much contention they create with their estate plans. Leaving behind wills that are poorly considered or do not clearly define the writers' intentions is a recipe for disputes and battles. This may be the opposite of the goals of one's estate plan. However, there are some steps one can take to reduce the possibility that the heirs of the estate will contest the contents of the will.
If someone waits until he or she is elderly and unwell, there is a greater chance that the heirs will protest that the will was not drafted while their loved one was of sound mind. Communication is the key to limiting the chances of a dispute. Sharing one's intentions early in the estate planning process may allow heirs to obtain clarification of any confusing or upsetting terms in the will. Waiting too long or keeping the will top secret - especially if it contains surprises - may be just enough of a shock to motivate legal action.
It is important that those who create a will or other estate plan keep the documents current. This means revisiting them frequently and reviewing them with an attorney once a year or when some life change occurs. As one's family changes and heirs come in and out of one's life, it may be necessary to alter the will or even add other estate planning tools, such as a trust.
Since every California family is different, it is not always easy to predict what factors may lead heirs to contest wills. However, meeting with an attorney sooner rather than later is recommended to take advantage of the advice and resources available. An attorney can also assist one in preparing to broach the subject of the estate plan with loved ones.