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Knowing why courts toss estate plans out can make yours stronger

On Behalf of | May 21, 2021 | Estate Planning

An estate plan is a powerful tool that lets you provide for the people that you love and create your own legacy after you die. People often spend a lot of time and effort in the creation of a plan that adequately represents their wishes and focuses on their most important relationship.

Unfortunately, even those who plan carefully can have their wishes challenged in probate court by family members who are unhappy with the terms of the last will or who expected a larger inheritance. Learning what causes many challenges against the last wills and estate plans in probate court can help you minimize how vulnerable your own legacy is.

Make sure your documents are accurate

Those to whom you leave an inheritance and members of your family not included in your generosity could challenge your wishes if they deviate from Virginia probate laws. For example, attempting to disinherit your spouse in an estate plan might lead to your spouse challenging your wishes and asking for their statutory elective inheritance rights.

Beyond legal accuracy, there’s also technical accuracy to consider. Having signatures in the right places and appropriate witnesses can go a long way toward creating an estate plan that is difficult for others to challenge especially by claiming the document is fraudulent. Updating the plan as your family circumstances and property change can help avoid challenges brought based on inaccuracies.

Be clear about your wishes

Some people also find a reason to challenge an estate when they have expectations that the plan does not meet. For example, if you have several children and one of them has played a role in the management of your business, that child might expect to inherit the business themselves rather than a share of it split with their siblings.

When the people you love know what you want to do with your biggest asset, they will be less inclined to question the terms of your last will and challenge it. Additionally, it will be easier for family members to recognize the warning signs of undue influence by a third party later in your life if you have been open with your wishes.

Know when to stop making changes

Planning out your estate and then making additions and revisions to your plan as your family situation changes throughout your life is a common and highly-effective approach to estate planning.

If you do make changes or additions to your plan later in life, it is crucial that you do not continue making changes after doctors diagnose you with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Lack of testamentary capacity at the time that you sign the document could be grounds for someone to challenge your wishes.

Learning about probate laws in Virginia is only the first step you need to take to protect your wishes from a challenge. The sooner and more thoroughly you set up your estate plan, the less likely your loved ones are to deal with a frustrating challenge.