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10 Steps to Protect Your Estate from Litigation

10 Steps to Protect Your Estate from LitigationOf all the things we plan to leave our families, a lawsuit surely is not one of them. Yet thousands of suits are filed every year and families torn apart because enough care was not taken when drafting an estate plan to build in these essential protection strategies:

1. Treat children equally. If you favor one child over another or bypass children altogether with no explanation, you are asking for litigation. Heirs will fight when they perceive they have been treated unfairly, so strive for fairness in your estate plan.

2. Make decisions about personal property. Many times a will or trust will specify simply that personal property be divided among family members "as they shall agree." Unfortunately, the reality is that many times they do not agree. Make a list of your personal property and designate who gets what in your will.

3. Designate disposition of loans or advances. If you plan to forgive a loan to a family member, you need to clarify that in your estate plan. If you have gifted a child some cash as an advance on their inheritance, be sure that amount is noted as counting against the share in your will or trust.

4. Use a contract to transfer business ownership. If you want to transfer your ownership in a business to one child, consider using a contract to sell the business interests to him or her while you are still alive.

5. Make sure you own what you bequeath. Sometimes people try to bequeath property like a vacation home that is already held in joint ownership. When property is jointly owned, the joint owner receives it. Those named as beneficiaries on your retirement accounts or life insurance policy will receive them, even if you have named someone else in your will.

6. Have your own attorney. This is especially important in second marriages where one lawyer may represent both spouses. If there are children from the first marriage and a disagreement arises, the children could file suit alleging that the second spouse had undue influence over the disposition of assets.

7. Consider a corporate executor. If you anticipate there may be problems with your estate after you are gone, consider naming a corporate executor instead of a spouse or child so abuse of power is not a real or perceived problem.

8. Establish your mental capacity. One of the most common grounds for legal challenges is lack of mental capacity. The best way to counter any claim of this type is to have yourself evaluated by your doctor before you sign your estate plan documents.

9. Have a "no contest" clause. You can have a "no contest" clause added to your will that stipulates that any beneficiary of the will who contests your will's validity forfeits his or her interest.

10. Spell out any disinheritance. If you intend to disinherit a child, you need to make it clear that the disinheritance is intentional and spell it out in your will. Most experts advise not to provide a reason, since the reason itself could lead to a legal challenge.

The Dorcey Law Firm, PLC, provides effective estate planning strategies for Florida residents; contact our Fort Myers law firm for your free consultation.

Categories: Estate Planning
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The Dorcey Law Firm, PLC - Fort Myers Attorney
Located at 10181 Six Mile Cypress Pkwy, Suite C, Fort Myers, FL 33966
Phone: (239) 330-6674
Local Phone: (239) 418-0169