If you have family members who do not get along, or you expect that your estate plan will cause discord among your surviving family members, you likely will want to make your will as legally valid and enforceable as possible. This process includes taking measures to avoid a will contest. While you cannot predict the future and address every possible contingency, you can take some simple steps to decrease the possibility of a will contest. A Florida estate planning lawyer at Kramer Green can help you create an estate plan that safeguards your objectives and minimizes the risk of a will contest following your death.
Individuals creating a will can include a so-called “no-contest” clause in many states. This type of clause, which individuals include in their wills, states that will beneficiaries who take action to contest the terms of their will and are unsuccessful in doing so will inherit nothing from the will. A no-contest clause is a strong mechanism to prevent your heirs from contesting the terms of your will. Unfortunately, under Florida law, no-contest clauses are unenforceable, so ensuring that your heirs refrain from contesting your will in Florida can be more challenging. Nonetheless, you still can take steps to minimize the chances of your heirs contesting your will following your death.
Execute Your Will Before Any Illness or Incapacity
One of the most common reasons that heirs try to contest a will is based on their belief that the testator, or the person who executed the will, was mentally incapacitated or incapable of making rational or lucid decisions at the time. Therefore, if you execute your will long before your doctors have diagnosed you with any potentially incapacitating illness or you have become elderly, it will be far more challenging for your surviving heirs to argue that you were incapacitated at the time that you created your will. Certainly, you can modify your will later on as needed, but it is better to have at least a basic version of your will in place as early as possible in life.
Observe All Legal Requirements for Executing a Will to Avoid a Will Contest
Your will must meet certain requirements to be legally valid and enforceable under Florida Statutes § 732.502. For example, all wills must be in writing and signed by the testator at the end or signed on the testator’s behalf by someone in his presence and at his direction. The signing of a will must occur in the presence of two witnesses, who also must sign the will in the presence of the testator and each other. Complying with all these legal formalities helps ensure that your heirs cannot challenge your will for lack of validity under Florida law.
Regularly Review Your Will for Necessary Updates or Changes
Reviewing your will regularly builds a record that your will truly reflects your wishes for the distribution of your estate following your death. You should review your will and your entire estate plan every three to five years. Still, you also may need to review it if you experience major life changes, such as marriage, birth or adoption of a child, divorce, moving to another state, selling or purchasing a business, or the death of a spouse. Even if you choose not to make any changes, your estate planning lawyer can still make notes of your meeting, review your estate plan, and indicate that your current will still meet your needs and reflects your wishes.
Call Us Today for Assistance with Your Estate Planning Needs
If you need assistance from an experienced estate planning attorney, look no further than Kramer, Green, Zuckerman, Greene & Buchsbaum, P.A. We offer comprehensive estate planning services, including the steps needed to plan for and prevent will contests.
We also offer the full range of estate, probate, and related services when your loved one passes away. We are here to help your family navigate the complex legal problems that often arise after losing a family member in the most efficient manner possible. Call us at (954) 966-2112 or find out more about our legal services online. Set up a time to talk to us about your legal needs today.