How Your Estate Plan Can Help Prevent Litigation
One important benefit of creating a comprehensive estate plan is that it can dramatically decrease the likelihood of disputes that can lead to costly, divisive, and time-consuming litigation. In fact, a well-drafted estate plan can help prevent litigation while you are alive as well as after you are gone. To encourage you to get started on your estate plan, the Coral Gables estate planning attorneys at Stivers Law explain how your estate plan can help prevent litigation.
Preventing Litigation If You Become Incapacitated
Incapacity can strike anyone at any time as a result of catastrophic injuries, a serious illness, or age-related dementia. If you do become incapacitated, litigation may stem from disputes over:
- Who controls your finances and assets
- Who takes care of your minor children
- Who makes healthcare decisions for you
- Who makes personal decisions for you
Your estate plan can help prevent disputes that lead to litigation by incorporating an incapacity planning component into the plan that may include a Living Will, a healthcare power of attorney, a revocable living trust, and/or durable power of attorney.
Preventing Trust Litigation
A trust can be activated while you are alive or after your death and, like a Will, a trust can be contested. Trust litigation is often caused by disputes over things such as:
- The meaning/intent of vague trust terms
- How much discretion a Trustee has to make distributions
- Whether a trust can/should be terminated
- Complaints about how the Trustee is fulfilling his/her duties
- Confusion or problems with how a trust interacts with other documents, such as a Will
Once again, working with an experienced attorney to create a comprehensive estate plan can prevent most trust litigation by ensuring that the trust terms are clear, the right Trustee is appointed, and the trust does not conflict with other estate planning documents.
Preventing Probate Litigation
After your death, your assets must be identified, located, valued, and eventually distributed to the intended beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of your estate. The legal process that oversees all of that is referred to as “probate.” As you may well imagine, disputes can occur during the probate of an estate. In fact, the frequency with which probate litigation occurs has been increasing in recent years. Some of the more common causes of probate litigation include:
- Litigation to determine who should administer an estate or how assets should be distributed. If you die without a Last Will and testament your estate is referred to as an “intestate estate.” Intestate estate disputes often occur when more than one person wants to oversee the administration of the estate. Disputes also commonly occur when family members and/or loved ones claim that assets were “promised” to them by the decedent. Creating and executing a valid Will can avoid both disputes.
- Litigation challenging the validity of a Will. An heir or beneficiary may initiate a Will contest, alleging that the Will presented for probate is legally invalid. When a Will contest is initiated, the entire probate process effectively grinds to a halt to focus on the challenge to the Will. Until that issue is decided one way, or the other, probate cannot move forward because the outcome of the Will contest determines how the estate is probate. Working with an experienced attorney to create a solid, and legally valid, Will avoids the likelihood of this dispute and decreases the likelihood of a successful Will contest if one is filed.
Contact Coral Gables Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar. If you have additional questions or concerns about how your estate plan can help prevent litigation, contact the experienced Coral Gables estate planning attorneys at Stivers Law by calling (305) 456-3255 to schedule an appointment.