Sunday, November 29, 2009
US News reports that poor economic conditions have led to more estate litigation. While wealth transfers have increased over the past 20 years, currently reduced asset values make for a smaller pie and returns that are smaller than excepted. Longevity and increased family complexity (2nd and 3rd marriages, for example) only add to disputes.
US News suggests the following key tips for avoiding estate litigation.
- Select a good, solid attorney who hasn't done any work for any of your beneficiaries.
- Select an executor who can get along with your family, perhaps even a professional fiduciary if no one else could successfully fill this role.
- Discuss your intentions with family before the will is drafted, taking away the surprise after death and making loved ones aware of personal wishes and desires.
- Take state law into account, creating trusts to bypass probate if probate is especially burdensome under applicable state law.
- Update the will or trust often so that challenges become more difficult.
- Title assets appropriately so that the assets pass through or outside probate as intended.
- Consider a no-contest clause coupled with testamentary gifts adequate to discourage disputes.
- Allow the estate some leeway with distribution of assets so that beneficiaries can agree to a distribution that suits them best.
See Phillip Moeller, 8 Tips to Avoid Nasty Estate Surprises, U.S. News, Nov. 27, 2009.
Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.