Ideas that can prevent a will contest

Some people are worried that after they die, family members may be unhappy about certain provisions in their will and may try to challenge the will in court. This is particularly true if one child is getting less in the will than others, for instance.

Here are some ways to head off a will contest:

  • Talk to your heirs now about what you’re doing and why. Many will contests are triggered because a relative is surprised to discover after a death that they have been disinherited or treated differently from others. Letting the person know ahead of time won’t necessarily prevent a lawsuit, but it can make it less likely.
  • A common claim in a will contest is that the person who made the will was mentally incapacitated at the time it was written. So when you make your will, have a doctor certify that you’re of sound mind and able to make intelligent decisions. Also, explaining in detail in the will exactly why you’re treating one relative differently can help show that what you did wasn’t the result of inadvertence or senility.
  • Some people put clauses in their will saying that if anyone challenges the will in court, that person will be disinherited. This can discourage people from bringing a challenge. Such clauses have appeared in many famous people’s wills, including those of Michael Jackson and William Randolph Hearst. You should be aware that some states prohibit such clauses, and if you move to such a state after you make the will, the clause might become invalid. Also, if you disinherit someone entirely, the clause will be useless. You have to leave the person enough assets in the will that the risk of losing them will discourage the person from challenging the will to try to get more.