You have decided to make your estate plan. You should be proud of yourself. A very small percentage of people take the time to make those arrangements. It is a compassionate thing to do for your family. Since you are taking this major step, you want to make sure you are not wasting your time by creating a will that will only cause confusion and contention among your heirs.
The potential for strife after you are gone
The possibility of disputes and even litigation among your heirs increases if you have divorced and remarried, or if your family situation is not traditional. You may also live many years beyond your parents' life expectancies. This could mean that you accumulate more assets and that your children will grow and add their own complicated branches to the family tree.
Two types of contests that arise during probate are when an heir challenges the portion he or she receives, or when someone who is excluded from the will disputes the omission. Here are some ways you can reduce the likelihood of a challenge after your death:
- Include a no-contest stipulation. This means that any heir who complains about his or her portion loses it.
- Have a doctor verify your mental capacity. By including with your will a doctor's confirmation of your fitness, you preempt any claims that you were not in your right mind when you wrote your will.
- Consider a revocable trust instead of a will. Trusts are not a matter of public record, so no one whom you exclude from your estate will be able to see how you divided your assets.
The most practical way to avoid disputes over your estate is to express your intentions verbally to your heirs. By making your wishes known ahead of time and explaining the reasoning behind your decisions, you remove the element of shock at the reading of the will and dispense with any ideas that your will does not express your actual purpose.
DIY can't replace the confidence of professional help
While it may be a popular choice to use a do-it-yourself form or an internet site to make a will, there are obvious drawbacks to those choices. First, those sites may not be familiar with all the laws within a state to ensure the validity of the will. Some states require a certain number of witnesses or very precise language to accomplish your goals.
Without the help of a lawyer, your run the risk of opening doors for disputes and disagreements among your heirs and non-heirs. Legal advice and guidance is recommended for the best results. You will be assured that your will is valid and enforceable if you have the assistance of a Wisconsin estate planning attorney.