Dealing with an estate can bring out the worst in a family. They are already dealing with the grief of loss and existing family complications, but when you add an estate into the mix, especially one with money, relationships often deteriorate.
Writing Out a Child
When considering your estate and heirs, you have the absolute right to leave anything you want to your children, divide your estate in a disproportionate fashion, and even write out a child altogether. There are many legitimate reasons parents chose to do this. There could be a disabled child, for example, whose lifetime needs will outstrip those of their siblings. Or it could be that the parents believe they gave the child their share of the estate during their lifetime.
Whatever the reason, writing out a child, especially when the child doesn’t expect the result, is one common cause of litigation. The child, as an heir, can bring a lawsuit alleging any number of reasons why they should not have been left out. If you chose to write out a child, or someone else who would otherwise be an heir, your estate planning attorney can help you do so in a clear and strong way to, if not prevent litigation, limit its impacts on the estate.
Forgetting Your Spouse
In Utah, your spouse is entitled to a spousal share of your estate, even if they aren’t specifically mentioned in your will. Unless your spouse has agreed in writing to forgo their share, and this writing must be properly done to be effective, then regardless of how you’ve otherwise divided your estate, your spouse inherits at least a portion. This causes litigation as a spouse may have to prove that they were validly married or argue with the other heirs over exactly what counts as part of their share.
There are certain formalities a valid will in Utah must meet and one of those is that the testator must be of sound mind when making their will. So when an estate document is modified during a last illness, and especially when that modification seems to favor one party over another in an unexpected way, then it is often contested on the grounds that the person writing the will was not themselves. Even attorneys who regularly practice trusts and estates law and are familiar with the nuances of ensuring our clients are of sound mind, struggle with individuals who are experiencing age- and illness-related mental decline but still want control of their assets.
A good estate attorney will do their best to document that the individual making changes to their estate plan, especially when it is clear those changes are last minute, is well aware of what they are doing and the likely ramifications.
While you can’t prevent litigation over your estate, you can take steps to try and avoid or limit litigation while planning. At Dunn Law Firm, we take the time to get to know you and your specific situation in order to create a comprehensive estate plan that meets your goals while minimizing the potential for future litigation. To learn more, reach out to the Dunn Law Firm by calling (435) 628-5405 to set up a free consultation today.