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Are There Warning Signs of a Will Contest?

will contest concept - last will and testament form with gavel

When you spend time and effort drafting an estate plan, you want to trust that it will be carried out as written. A long and drawn-out legal contest of your will is the last thing you want for your heirs and loved ones after you pass. There is no way to know with certainty what will happen after your death, but in some cases, there are aspects of a will or family dynamic that can predict a future will contest. Learn about warning signs of a will contest and ways you can reduce the chances of contests to your will, below.

You’ve disinherited someone who expected to be an heir

One of the most common reasons that wills are contested is that someone who expected to be included in the will was not. Often, these contests are based on a claim that you lacked mental fitness; i.e., that you couldn’t have been of sound mind if you chose to disinherit someone to whom you were so close. Alternately, a scorned heir may claim that there was undue influence, where someone else (possibly with ulterior motives) convinced you to write the disinherited person out of your will. In cases where you plan not to include a close family member in your will, it can help to put your reasons for their disinheritance in writing, either within the will or in a separate letter to the disinherited person. This way, your motives are clear and are less subject to being misconstrued.

You have an heir in financial distress

An heir who is in desperate need of money will, for obvious reasons, be more inclined to challenge a will that doesn’t provide as much as they needed or expected to receive. You might be able to defuse a future contest by providing a slightly larger gift to the heir-in-need than you provide to heirs who are similarly related. Even if the difference isn’t substantial, this allows you to acknowledge the heir’s need without substantially shortchanging other heirs.

You have chosen multiple trustees

Trustees have a duty to make decisions about investing and distributing trust assets in ways that will provide the greatest possible financial benefits to the trust. Getting more than one trustee to agree on how best to carry out this duty can result in infighting. However, if you have more than one child who expects to be named as trustee, choosing just one could also stir conflict. Some trust grantors address this problem by choosing one child to be the trustee and the other to act as a secondary trustee. By speaking to your children in advance to explain your choice of trustee, you improve the chances that hurt feelings won’t result in a legal fight.

If you’re in need of professional and effective Illinois estate planning help, contact the Chicago will & trust attorneys at MacDonald, Lee & Senechalle in Hoffman Estates at 847-310-0025, or in Des Plaines at 847-298-5030.

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