Families can be complicated. Whether a parent does not get along with a sibling, or their own children engage in a rivalry, consistent disagreements can place a lot of stress on the whole family.
These situations can become even more stressful after a loved one passes, and the family must go through the probate process. Thankfully, there are steps that individuals can take when they are creating their estate plan to reduce the risk of family disputes in probate
1. Follow the proper estate planning procedures
The most important step individuals can take to reduce the chance of a dispute is to ensure their estate plan is valid. For example, to create a valid Will, New Jersey law requires:
- Individuals to type or write their Will;
- The testator to be of sound mind;
- The testator to sign and date the Will; and
- Two witnesses who will not inherit to sign the Will as well.
Individuals should ensure they follow the proper procedures and create an estate plan that complies with the law. Estate planning laws can often be complex, so individuals should consult an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure they understand the law and make an ironclad estate plan.
If the Will is clear and valid under the law, it will be a challenge for family members to dispute or contest it.
2. Choose your representatives wisely:
In a recent blog post, we discussed a few considerations individuals should make when choosing their healthcare representative. Individuals must also carefully consider who they will choose to:
- Hold powers of attorney;
- Be the executor of their will; or
- Act as a trustee, if applicable.
Contemplating these decisions and informing family members of one’s choices can help to mitigate disputes or contests before they happen.
3. Call a family meeting
Forbes recommends that, once individuals establish their estate plan, they should have a family meeting with all beneficiaries and heirs, as well as other family members. Then, they can make their wishes clear in-person to their family. This is a helpful step that can reduce any doubt family members have, and prevent any disputes between family members in the future during the probate process.
To speak with an experienced estate planning attorney, contact Michelle Smith at [email protected].