What You Need to Know When A Sibling Contests A Parent’s Will

It goes without saying that the death of a parent is one of the most complicated times in your life, and this loss can lead to significant riffs among siblings. Unfortunately, the distribution of assets can be one reason that causes conflict between you and your siblings.

Can You Contest a Will for Any Reason?

You need to understand the grounds of a will and what it means to challenge the validity of this document. If a sibling believes that there are reasons to classify the will as invalid, he or she can initiate a will contest.

A last will is a legal document that cannot be easily overturned without significant proof indicating that there are reasons to invalidate the will. This means that just because your sibling contests the will doesn’t mean he or she will be successful. Furthermore, contesting a will is time consuming and expensive, and it might just take your sibling meeting with a probate dispute lawyer to understand the stakes involved to make another decision.

Who Can Contest a Will?

Wills can only be contested by children, spouses or people who are mentioned in the will or a previous version of the will. When any one of these individuals notifies the court of a will contest, the official legal procedure will begin.

A sibling or anyone else cannot have the will overturned or thrown out simply because he or she believes it’s unfair, they’re mad at you personally, because the parent verbally stated they would do something different, or because they feel left out. If there is a valid legal question about the legality of the will, this is the only time that a sibling is able to challenge the process under which the will was created or the document itself.

A last will and testament is assumed to be valid by the probate court, so long as it is submitted in the proper format and has no will contest associated with it. You may need to retain your own probate dispute attorney if you have to fight back against a sibling who is arguing that the will is invalid.

Need help with your estate planning? Talk to a Virginia estate planning attorney now.

What to Do If You Want to Exclude a Child from The Will

Having the estate planning process nailed down with the support of an experienced attorney, you might have questions that you are uncomfortable bringing up with your lawyer. One such question includes whether or not it makes sense to exclude a particular child from your will.
While the vast majority of estate plans give all of the assets to the spouse and then to the children, not every plan has to follow this type of testamentary distribution trend. If you wish to exclude a child or some other relative from your will, you are certainly free to do so. While it might go against the norm of what most people are doing with their estate planning, it doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate or wrong in your particular situation.
It simply means that you are recognizing a unique family dynamic and deciding that passing things on equally is the right thing to do. Deciding to exclude someone from your will could increase the chances of a will contest or a will challenge down the road. Having your documents properly drafted with the support of an experienced attorney can greatly decrease the chances that someone will be eligible to bring forward a will contest years into the future.
However, this is why you want to work only with an experienced and dedicated lawyer who has an understanding of your unique situation and can help to advise you of ways to avoid common missteps and problems. These problems could eventually turn into significant issues down the road when your loved ones, whom you intended to receive material are faced with a delayed probate proceeding because someone initiated a will challenge. Consulting with a lawyer helps to decrease the chances of these issues and empowers you with the chance to ask many of your questions about the estate planning process in general.     

When Is Your Living Trust Better Than a Will?

Do you only have a handful of documents set up for estate planning purposes? If so, you’re like most people who don’t realize that your will probably doesn’t go far enough to protect your interests. Having a living trust is a great way to incorporate additional planning opportunities into your big picture to ensure that you’ve considered the whole scope of everything. 
In some situations, a living trust is a better place to incorporate these estate planning concerns. Talking a lawyer begins this conversation and ensures that you’ve considered all the factors that belong in your ultimate trust. Once your lawyer has reviewed what you hope to accomplish, you’ll be in a better place to move forward with your entire estate plan.
A living should be a cornerstone of your estate planning toolkit if you fall into any of the following categories:

  • You have a surviving spouse
  • You are a senior with significant assets
  • You have a family to support even after you pass away

There is good chance that you might already have considered the basic benefits of having a will but a will is not enough if you need to accomplish these additional goals. A living trust or revocable trust many be a better tool instead. Living trusts were created specifically to fix the issues that are often tied to a traditional will.
The first thing that makes a revocable trust different from other types of trust is that it can be changed or dissolved base on the wishes of the person who created it. Rather than having your estate go through the process of probate, wherein the court has temporary possession of all of the assets inside, you can use a living trust to ensure a smooth and seamless transition of these assets.
You might be concerned that your final wishes surrounding property won’t be honored with a living trust. However, a trust is stricter than a will when it comes to ensuring that appropriate requirements are met. A trust can also handle more specific concerns that you wish to be carried out on a regular basis.
Another benefit of a living trust is you can establish your inheritor trustee as your power of attorney. To put together a living trust, you will want to first discuss this opportunity with the help of an experienced estate planning lawyer.

Use Your Will to Ensure That Your Wishes Are Followed

When facing the death of a loved one, the last thing any family members want to worry about is dealing with an estate and going through probate. If you don’t have a plan in place, then your individual state and the court system comes up with a plan for you. 
Your property will eventually go to someone, but without an estate plan and a proper will in place, the court is responsible for determining what’s best for that property, not you. This means that the property handed down legally through the court’s determination may not go to who you want. Your beneficiaries can be named inside an estate plan. A will also allows you to put together the name of a guardian for your minor children and the executor of your estate. The guardian can be one of the most crucial decisions you make legally if something were to happen to you and your spouse.
If you have no will but all of your assets have the beneficiary designation enlisted on them, the fact that you don’t have a will won’t have any impact on your property, but this relates primarily to assets such as your retirement plan and life insurance policies where you’ll need to establish your beneficiaries separately.

Want to Settle Scores with Your Will? Here’s Why You Should Skip It

Although it can be difficult to come to terms with the management of your estate and family members that you wish to disinherit, using your will to settle a score and leave in specific clauses that make things more difficult for your loved ones is not always recommended. If you do desire to disinherit someone in your will, there are ways of doing this without adding fuel to the fire.
Your will is an opportunity to bring order for what can be a confusing and difficult time for your family. The moment can be further complicated if you take one last swing by trying to settle a score.
People will get the picture when you intentionally disinherit or acknowledge them. It’s not easy to approach the process of estate planning when there are numerous challenges and difficult family situations involved, but a tactful estate planning attorney can help walk you through this process in a way that accomplishes your goals without making things work.
If you have final issues with your loved ones as you put together an estate plan, it’s better to not mention them at all. Otherwise, you risk adding more fuel to the fire when your other family members are grieving your loss.
Be aware that without proper estate planning tools, some aggravated “beneficiaries” may try to argue that your will is not valid, causing disputes with other loved ones as your case moves into the court system.
Set up a time to talk through your concerns with an experienced VA Beach estate planning lawyer.

Some Wills Have a Way of Making People Laugh

Senior couple sitting on grass together relaxing

Senior couple sitting on grass together relaxing

Not everyone takes a grim approach when it comes to the Grim Reaper.
A delightful website based in the United Kingdom focuses on last wills in which a bit of whimsy or human or error or outrageous personality comes shining through. kstock
Among them:
“Anthony Scott, in his last will and testament wrote, ‘To my first wife Sue, whom I always promised to mention in my will. Hello Sue!’ ” 
“One well-meaning will maker gave a legacy to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Birds. By bizarre coincidence, Frank Clifford’s last will and testament included a legacy to the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals.”
Other examples on the site include the man who left money to his employer to purchase a book on manners.
And then there was a rather strange religious last will and testament.
“Norman Earnest Digweed’s will entered the hall of famous wills when he directed that his estate of £26,000 be placed in trust for 80 years for Jesus Christ should he return within that time. Quite a number of people came forward to claim the estate which nevertheless passed to the crown after the 80 years was up in 1977.”
The website, for all the humor it derives from the odd, error-prone or bitter final wishes, does conclude on a serious note.
“Wills can be a laugh, but what is more worrying is that many people procrastinate with their wills. Thousands of people die each year without having made their wills. And in many cases, the state will benefit while their families and friends lose out. Start to make a will now so your loved ones don’t miss out.”

Some Approach Wills With a Bit of Whimsy

Last Will Concept

Last Will Concept

Deciding who gets what and what goes where after a person dies is generally a pretty solemn undertaking.
But not always.
Some folks are able to take a more lighthearted approach when it comes to a last will and testament, and history abounds with some fascinating examples, according to the website listverse.com.
“While most wills are left in order to make certain that our financial affairs are taken care of after our death, some people have used them to make political points, or just for a bit of a laugh,” according to an article on the site . The Roman poet Virgil, for instance, initially wanted his epic Aeneid destroyed upon his death because he had not completed all planned 24 books of the work.
“When his friends found out, they managed to finally convince him to remove the request from his will,” the site states. “He consented and the poem was published to great acclaim.”
In his will, Charles Dickens demanded that the mourners “who attend my funeral wear no scarf, cloak, black bow, long hatband or other such revolting absurdity,” according to the article.
“In addition to the above, Dickens also wrote that he was not to have a public funeral and the place and time of his funeral were not to be made public. He also requested an inexpensive and simple funeral with only three plain ‘mourning coaches.’ His requests were ignored on a grand scale. He was honored with a huge funeral cortege, with all members present in full funeral regalia. His funeral was a national event.”
Benjamin Franklin sought in his final wishes to prevent his daughter from wearing jewelry after his death. He referred to it as a “useless pastime.”
“Benjamin Franklin was one of the most admired men in the Western world in the late 18th century,” the site explains. “The reason for his odd request was that as former ambassador to France, Franklin was given a portrait of King Louis XVI in a frame studded with 408 diamonds. He left this picture and frame to his daughter Sarah with the above proviso to prevent her from removing the diamonds from the frame to make jewelry.”

Without A Will, Legislature’s Guesses Hold Sway

Last Will and Testament

Last Will and Testament

Most people should say that when it comes to dying without a will, there’s no way.
But far too many folks manage do find a way, and this can have potentially devastating consequences, according to the American Bar Association.
“If you die intestate, without a will, your state’s laws of descent and distribution will determine who receives your property by default,” according to the association. These laws vary from state to state, but typically the distribution would be to your spouse and children, or if none, to other family members. A state’s plan often reflects the legislature’s guess as to how most people would dispose of their estates and builds in protections for certain beneficiaries, particularly minor children.
“That plan may or may not reflect your actual wishes, and some of the built-in protections may not be necessary in a harmonious family setting. A will allows you to alter the state’s default plan to suit your personal preferences. It also permits you to exercise control over a myriad of personal decisions that broad and general state default provisions cannot address.”
A will, whether a simple one or a document of significant complexity, reflects the will of the person who signs his or her name to it, and can provide a lasting last memory for family and friends left behind.
Sometimes, however, the ABA warns, a will alone might not be enough to ensure a descendant’s wishes are fully and properly carried out.
“In many instances, consumers prepare wills believing that the will governs who will inherit their assets when in fact, the title (ownership) of various accounts or real property, for example, as joint tenants, or beneficiary designations for IRAs, life insurance and certain other assets control the distribution of most or even all assets,” the article states. “This is why merely addressing your will is rarely sufficient to accomplish your goals.”

Wills And Trusts Require Expertise, Not ‘Cheaper’ Alternatives

Estate planning

Estate planning

There is no easy way out, certainly no simple way out, when it comes to estate planning.
As the American Bar Association website points out, in all likelihood the do-it-yourself estate planner has a client who could use better advice.
“It is easy to be lured by advertisements claiming you can save time and money by drafting your own will or trust using do-it-yourself websites, retail software or fill-in-the-blank will or trust kits from the bookstore,” the site states  “It is unlikely that these alternatives will generate a suitable plan that accomplishes all of your objectives. Only a qualified trusts and estates lawyer can interpret the myriad laws bearing on property rights, taxes, wills, probate, and trusts. More important, canned programs and forms cannot provide the wide range of legal advice to assure that the form is correct, that assets passing outside of your will or trust are properly handled, that state law nuances are taken into account, or that relevant tax, legal and personal issues are properly addressed.”
Far from being the more expensive option, the ABA says consulting an attorney can actually be the less costly alternative in the long run.
“On the other hand, you can save time and money by preparing for a meeting with your estate planning lawyer. You can organize your information regarding your assets, liabilities, and title arrangements and think about your feelings regarding providing for various family members. Most lawyers practicing in this area have questionnaires that will help you with this process. You should take with you copies of important documents such as previous wills or trusts, powers of attorney, life insurance policies, employment benefits, and prenuptial agreements and divorce decrees.”

For Caregivers, Ensuring Legal Matters Essential

Doctor laying hand on senior man's shoulder

Doctor laying hand on senior man’s shoulder

Caregivers of people with serious illnesses, particularly cognitive issues of the elderly, have a lot on their plate, but they also have an obligation to make future legal preparations for their loved ones.
“As a caregiver, you should begin making legal preparations soon after your loved one has been diagnosed with a serious illness,” states an article on the webmd website. “People with Alzheimer’s disease and other long-term illnesses may have the capacity to manage their own legal and financial affairs right now. But as these diseases advance, they will need to rely on others to act in their best interests. This transition is never easy. However, advance planning allows people with a long-term disease and their families to make decisions together for what may come.
“Clearly written legal documents that outline your loved one’s wishes and decisions are essential for caregivers. These documents can authorize another person to make healthcare and financial decisions, including plans for long-term care. If the person being cared for has the legal capacity, the level of mental functioning necessary to sign official documents, he or she should actively participate in legal planning. To give your loved one the best care possible, obtain legal advice and services from an attorney experienced with these issues. If the person you’re caring for is age 65 or older, consider hiring an attorney who practices elder law, a specialized area of law focusing on issues that typically affect the elderly.”
Webmd.com advises caregivers to be certain that important documents are in place, including:

  • Power of attorney
  • Durable power of attorney for health care, also known as health care proxy
  • Living will
  • Living trust
  • Will