Some states let you ‘win’ a will contest while you’re still alive

People are sometimes concerned that after they die, a beneficiary (or more likely a non-beneficiary) will go to court to contest their will. Typically, a disgruntled would-be heir might claim that the person who made the will wasn’t mentally competent, or was under undue influence from some other person. These types of will contests can be very expensive, and they can cause a lot of emotional hardship within a family.

Recently, a handful of states have allowed people who make a will to go to court while they’re still alive and have a judge rule that the will is valid – thus preventing a will contest.

These states include Alaska, Arkansas, Nevada, North Dakota and Ohio. Similar legislation is pending in Delaware.

Even if you don’t live in one of those states, you might be able to obtain a court ruling there, such as by putting your assets into a revocable trust and hiring a trustee in that state.

Of course, there are many drawbacks, including the inconvenience and expense, the fact that you’ll have to make your estate planning documents public before you die, and the fact that if you later revise your estate plan, the ruling will be worthless and you’ll have to start all over again.

If you’re truly concerned about a will contest, this idea might be worth exploring. But there might also be other, less drastic methods of making sure that your intentions are carried out.

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