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How can you help avoid contests to your estate plan?

One of the key reasons that most people create estate plans is to ensure that their wishes are carried out after they have passed away. For many people, this means dividing their assets among their heirs.

A well-crafted estate plan can help minimize the possibility that family members and others will battle over it. However, there are additional steps that you can take while you're alive to further minimize the chances that anyone will contest it and cause delays, stress and unwanted expenses for your loved ones.

You can include a no-contest clause. This states that anyone who challenges the will in court forfeits his or her inheritance. There are exceptions to this, but it can prove to be an effective deterrent -- particularly for someone who stands to inherit something but doesn't believe it's enough.

Communication with your family about the contents of your estate plan is helpful. That's just one more reason why it's best to create your estate plan while you're still of sound mind and body, when there's no question later about whether you knew what you were doing.

You may not relish having conversations with children or other relatives explaining why they aren't getting as much as they might be anticipating. However, by explaining your reasoning, they're less likely to assume that you were manipulated by someone else.

Having a revocable living trust instead of a will helps keep things more private -- thus helping prevent challenges from people outside the immediate family. Unlike a will, a revocable living trust is not a public document that anyone can see once the probate court gets it. There are other advantages to revocable trusts that you may want to discuss with your attorney.

Most people who develop estate plans want to make things as hassle-free as possible for their loved ones after they're gone. By taking steps to give those loved ones the assurance that your plan represents your wishes -- whether it's what they would prefer or not -- you help minimize the chances of conflict and contests.

Source: The Balance, "Estate Planning 5 Tips for Avoiding a Will Contest," Julie Gerber, accessed Oct. 04, 2017

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