Friday, April 22, 2011

4 Tips to Reduce the Potential for Will and Trust Disputes:

Advise your beneficiaries of your distribution plans, especially when children are being treated unequally. Will contests and litigation arise from disappointed feelings of entitlement. Telling the children ahead of time what their shares will be may avoid a later dispute. (Although it could cause family problems now though so be careful. Sometime writing a “family love letter” to your children to be read after your death, explaining why you set up the distribution plan the way you did may help as well. This will vary from family to family.

Use a Trust - not just a Will. Since trusts can be funded and operate during lifetime, it is difficult to contest on the grounds that the individual was unaware of its terms. When the Trustor of the trust dies, there is no need to begin a court proceeding to "prove" the validity of the trust, like there is for a will.

Use Disinheritance Or No Contest Clause.  The goal here is to prevent beneficiaries from causing a legal dispute after someone dies. A lot of trust and estate litigation is not about the validity of the document, but about how it is to be interpreted or how it is being managed. In order to reduce this type of litigation, a disinheritance clause can cause a forfeiture of a beneficiary's interest if such a challenge is made. The entire estate plan must be consistent with this clause.

Use Mediation or Arbitration Provisions in your plan. Arbitration or mediation cannot be used with respect to the challenge of a document's validity unless the parties agree to it. Using a disinheritance clause to cause forfeiture if the parties will not participate can be used. This could stop claims that are filed only to harass other beneficiaries or to delay distributions to others. Another approach would be having the parties enter into a contract agreeing to arbitration before the transfer.

Disclaimer: The information provided is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to your particular issue or problem. Use of this information or any related information does not create an attorney-client relationship between ALVIS FRANTZ AND ASSOCIATES. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual authors and does not reflect the opinions of any firm or attorney.

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