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California estate planning tips for estranged family members

On Behalf of | Aug 28, 2023 | Estate Administration & Probate

Estranged family members make the estate planning process more stressful because you don’t know how they’re going to react to your wishes after your death. Conflict among the family isn’t what you want, but at the same time, you may not feel right about giving someone an inheritance because of a bad path they went down or some other reason.

Have the uncomfortable discussion

You may want to inform your estranged family member of your plan on dividing your property after your death and your reasoning behind it. Some people expect an inheritance even when the relationship isn’t good. They might genuinely believe that their sibling or someone else wrongfully influenced you and slow down the probate process by filing a lawsuit. It will also cause conflict in the family if they blame another family member for how you chose to divide your estate.

Set up trusts and transfer-on-death accounts

Estate planning strategies to consider using if you have concerns about an estranged family member contesting your will are trusts and transfer-on-death accounts. Both financial accounts automatically transfer to the beneficiary after your death. They don’t need to pass probate. Trusts and transfer-on-death accounts also let your beneficiaries receive their inheritances faster with less stress.

Another way that you can use a trust is to enforce limitations on how a beneficiary can use it. This is helpful if you still want to leave an inheritance behind for a family member who’s irresponsible.

Include a no-contest clause

If you intend to leave behind money or property to an estranged family member, then you may want to add a no-contest clause. This will deter them from challenging the validity of your will. A no-contest clause withdraws their inheritance if they bring up a claim in court without probable cause.

It’s possible to protect your estate plan when you have an estranged family member. Some of the best ways are letting them know what to expect and using estate planning strategies that protect your wishes.


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