Will and Trust Contests: How To Prevent Challenges From Unhappy Beneficiaries

Even if you have the purest intentions of providing for your loved ones when you pass and foresee a smooth transfer of assets, you should be aware that one disgruntled beneficiary who challenges your will or trust can destabilize the family. At Surprenant & Beneski, P.C., our estate planning attorneys know all too well the stress and pain contested wills and trusts can cause. Read this blog to find out how best to avoid such conflicts.

The Purposes of Wills and Trusts

Wills and trusts are fundamental components of estate planning. A will is a legal document that outlines how your assets should be distributed after your death. It can also appoint guardians for minor children. A trust, on the other hand, offers a way to manage your assets both during your lifetime and after your passing, with the added benefits of privacy, probate avoidance, and potentially significant tax advantages. Both tools provide peace of mind by ensuring that your estate is managed specifically according to your wishes.

Reasons Wills and Trusts May Be Challenged

Despite the clarity these documents are designed to provide, wills and trusts can still be contested for various reasons. Common grounds for challenges include:

  • Allegations of undue influence, in which a party claims the decedent was pressured into making decisions not reflective of their true wishes.
  • Lack of capacity, in which a party argues that the deceased was not mentally fit to make estate decisions.
  • Improper execution, in which the essential legal protocol was not correctly followed.
  • Fraud, in which another party interfered with the willmaker’s true intentions through deception or changed the last will and testament without the decedent’s knowledge.

Will and trust contests can result in lengthy and costly legal battles, often depleting the estate’s assets and causing serious family rifts.

How Such Challenges Can Be Prevented

To minimize the risk of challenges, it’s crucial to ensure your will and trust are properly drafted and executed. Here are several strategies:

Regularly update your estate plan, especially after major life events, to reflect recent changes in your circumstances and wishes so that beneficiaries know that your documents are current.

Clearly communicate your intentions to keep family members in the loop. Transparency will help to manage expectations and minimize disputes.

Avoid surprises that could appear suspicious, especially if made late in life. Direct explanations will be helpful in convincing relatives that your decisions have not been coerced.

Have a medical evaluation if there are concerns about your mental capacity a medical evaluation at the time of signing your estate documents can be used to prove competence.

Ensure that your will and trust are properly witnessed and notarized. Though the latter step is not required in Massachusetts, it will help to confirm the validity of these documents.

Seek professional legal assistance. Engaging an experienced estate planning attorney will ensure your documents comply with state laws and accurately reflect your wishes.

Why Surprenant & Beneski Is Well-Positioned To Help

After 20 years of experience, our legal team understands the importance of creating an airtight estate plan that will stand up to scrutiny and prevent disputes among beneficiaries. We are eager to use our knowledge and skill to your advantage. Our estate planning attorneys know precisely which proactive steps to take and will make certain that your essential documents are well-crafted, carefully reviewed, and properly executed. 

Reduce the Risk of Challenges: Contact Our Experienced Attorneys

While wills and trusts are designed to clarify asset distribution, they can still be contested by unhappy beneficiaries, adding to the grief and disorientation that follows a death in the family. 

Contact Surprenant & Beneski today. We can guide you through the complex process of safeguarding your assets, ensuring that your wishes are honored, and providing your loved ones with a secure future, free of unnecessary conflict. Due to the nature of contested matters, our office does not manage them. However, we are happy to provide a referral to a qualified firm that does.