If you fail to estate plan for your family, then you may be preparing your family survivors and beneficiaries to fight estranged family members who try to contest your will.
If you don’t make such decisions in your lifetime, then your local probate court could decide who your beneficiaries are after your death.
All of these celebrities died without a will:
- Aretha Franklin
- Amy Winehouse
- Kurt Cobain
- Bob Marley
- Gary Coleman
- Nate Dogg
- Jimi Hendrix
- Tupac Shakur
- Pablo Picasso
- Michael Jackson
- James Brown
Actor Sherman Hemsley, who portrayed George Jefferson on the TV show The Jeffersons, had his burial delayed by weeks while his will was contested by a former business manager and a man who claimed to be his half-brother.
Hemsley had never married or had any children in his lifetime. The business manager won the case.
Huguette Clark was a reclusive mining heiress who died with a net worth of $400 million in 2011 at age 104.
Clark drafted two wills; in the first one she divided her fortune amongst her family but in the second, she disinherited all of them.
Nineteen of Clark’s living relatives, of which 14 had never met her, were granted a portion of Clark’s estate a few years later.
While considering mortality is not fun, you need to make these decisions now. Your family could suffer trying to sort out your contested will or estate for years to come.
Here’s what you can do. Consult a lawyer about the estate laws in your state before taking any action.
Estate contestation escrow fund
You may be legally able to draft your will to reduce beneficiary payouts during legal contestations.
After the will is put into an escrow account, any beneficiary payout could be reduced proportionally to legal fees. A part of the estate could be used or liquidated, to pay extensive legal fees.
The threat of such an action could disincentivize contesters who would need to pay their own legal fees with no hope of a big payout.
Create a legal requirement for arbitration or mediators
In the case of a legal contestation for your will, you may be able to legally required to have a legal mediator or arbitrator resolve any contests to the will.
In other words, before any legal process starts to contest the will, anyone contesting the will would have to agree to have their claims potentially resolved by a third-party mediator first.
Such a requirement gives your family and estate time to prepare arbitration terms in their favor.
Create a video will
Create a will on video, in front of a lawyer and witnessing who can attest via affidavit, that states who your inheritors are and how you want your estate to be divided.
A video will quashes any complaints that your will was made while you were in cognitive decline, that it was a forgery, or invalid. Make sure to have the video authenticated by a third party to cover your bases as well.