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Estate planning steps that help you avoid litigation

If you go through all the trouble of creating an estate plan, you obviously have a legacy you wish to leave behind. Sadly, the beneficiaries of your last will and your family members may not respect your legacy as you intend it. Instead, they may have their own expectations and wishes regarding the assets you leave behind when you die.

Dissatisfied heirs and beneficiaries can challenge your estate plan or last will in court. They can also bring a challenge against the administrator or executor for your estate. Thankfully, there are certain steps that you can take during the estate planning process that will drastically reduce the potential of litigation during probate administration.

Talk to your family about what to expect in the will now

One of the most common reasons people have for challenging an estate is disappointment or surprise at the terms of the last will. For example, your children might expect that you will split your assets evenly between them. When they later realize that you have also allocated assets to a charity or two people who are not members of your family, they could attempt to challenge that.

Establishing your wishes for your legacy early on is a great way to limit surprise and anger among your heirs after you pass on. When everyone in the family knows what to expect, they can't claim shock or disappointment over the terms of your will.

Keep your last will up-to-date, and ensure everything in it is legally viable

Nothing makes a challenge to your will easier than errors in your last will. Whether you still list someone who is dead as a beneficiary or include provisions that violate state law, mistakes and oversights in a last will could lead the courts to throw out your estate plan.

Avoiding this is relatively simple. First, you should work with a lawyer who has experience in handling Colorado estate plans instead of trying to make one on your own. You should also commit to reviewing your estate plan every few years, as well as when family circumstances change. Births, deaths, marriages and divorces are all reasons to review the beneficiaries in your will.

Add an in terrorem clause to remove financial motivation for challenges

If your heirs and beneficiaries stand to drastically increase the financial value of their inheritance when they challenge your will, that, alone, could be motive for undermining your legacy. If your heirs know that they will only have to pay for a few hours of attorney and court time to bring a challenge, the potential windfall could well outweigh the financial risk involved in bringing a challenge.

An in terrorem or no-contest clause reduces that risk. These specialized causes specifically create penalties for anyone who challenges your will, and the courts in Colorado typically uphold these documents.

If you're worried that your family members may contest your last will or estate plan, be proactive. Take steps while planning your estate to ensure your legacy remains as you intend it to be.

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