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Samuel Ford Law Torrance Estate Planning & Probate Lawyer
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Keep Relatives From Fighting Over Your Estate Plan


One of the main goals in creating an estate plan, is to create a plan that minimizes or hopefully eliminates completely, the risk of fighting between your relatives and beneficiaries when you are gone. Contesting wills and trusts between relatives who feel they did not receive what they should have, does happen. But there are things you can do now, when creating your estate plan, that can avoid that from happening.

You may notice that while some of these are legal strategies, some are not. Some are just plain logic, and communication—both of which can go a long way to keeping relatives from fighting over inheritances.

Life Insurance and POD Accounts

Life insurance, and Payable on Death (POD) accounts, avoid the probate process entirely, because they transfer automatically on death. This means that the traditional ways that people would challenge an estate-for example, alleging undue influence or coercion—don’t apply. The proceeds or the accounts transfer immediately—there is no real way for relatives to challenge who you designate as a beneficiary, for life insurance or POD accounts.

Update Your Plan

Many fights happen because an estate plan is old. Things may have happened in your life, since the creation of the estate plan.

For example, someone may have kids from a new marriage, or they may be separated from who was then their wife. The “new” people in your life expect to inherit, but the “old” people in your life are still beneficiaries in your will or trusts, created years ago. That creates problems.

Letters of Instruction

You can also leave a letter of instruction. This is not a legal document, but it is a letter that allows you to explain the rationale behind why you are doing what you are doing in your estate plan. It shows that your decisions are a product of a rational, thought out consideration. Not the result of coercion or influence.

No Contest Clauses

You can consider adding a no contest clause in your will or estate documents. This is a clause that says that if someone unsuccessfully challenges a will or trust, that they will forfeit whatever they were left in that will or trust.

These are disfavored, and only apply in limited situations. But if someone looking to challenge your estate does fall within those categories, that may be deterred from continuing with the challenge once they learn of the no contest clause.

See Your Attorney-Alone

Your estate plan should be a product of collaboration between you and your estate planning attorney. Sure, you can speak with trusted loved ones and family for guidance. But as for the important meetings and getting legal advice, leave others out of it, if possible. This avoids those who weren’t in those meetings, from saying that whoever was in the meetings exerted too much influence on your estate plan.

Call the Torrance will and estate attorneys at Samuel Ford Law today for help creating an estate plan that minimizes or eliminates fighting between relatives.


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