Can you bulletproof your will?
As estate litigators with decades of experience, we’ve seen it all when it comes to estate disputes. Our firm has dealt with thousands of cases and family situations. Not surprisingly, we’re often asked if there’s a bulletproof will that’s beyond challenge. Is there a way to guarantee that a will can’t be successfully attacked and your wishes thwarted?
The truth is a simple one: there is no 100% certain solution. However, while you can’t get a coat of armor for your will, you can build some thick layers of protection that can greatly reduce the chances of it being successfully challenged. Here are three ways you can help prevent will disputes:
- Make sure your planning is current
Times change, family situations can change, family wealth can change. In so many cases, a will drafted 20 years ago will not accurately reflect the true wishes of a testator or the true expectations of beneficiaries. But we’ve seen those situations time and time again – and that’s when conflicts occur.
Here’s your first layer of protection: make sure you will and estate plan are up-to-date and reflect your current situation and wishes. It sounds obvious, but it’s a trap many fall into. To get it right, you need advice from a lawyer or advisor with a deep understanding of your assets and your family situation. It’s worth the time, effort, and expense to ensure you capture your current wishes and situation in your planning.
- Talk it out
The most obvious step to take is often the most difficult to execute: talk to your family. Let them know your plans, listen to their concerns, explain your reasons, and adjust your planning as needed to minimize the chances of dispute after you’re gone. Even if you can’t resolve family conflicts entirely, your clear communication of your wishes – and your willingness to listen to the concerns of family members – will go a long way to minimizing a challenge to your will.
- Add a “no contest” clause to your will
This is truly a band aid solution, as it doesn’t address the true cause of conflict or attempt to resolve it. But in cases where you suspect that a challenge to your estate plans will be launched, adding a “no contest” clause to your will can be effective in thwarting it. With a no contest clause, when a beneficiary contests a will, it invalidates their inheritance, and the assets are distributed as though the beneficiary predeceased the testator. Such a clause has typically been upheld as enforceable by courts in Canada. However, there are exceptions, and great care and expert advice is needed when adding this provision to your will.
We discuss a few different angles of these issues in this article and Hull & Hull TV episode: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/suzana-popovicmontag/family-will-conflict_b_3676914.html
Thank you for reading.