The last thing you want is for your family to fight over your estate. Having a solid estate plan can help, especially if you have a will that makes your intentions clear.
Unfortunately, a will does not guarantee that everything will go smoothly.
Contesting a will
Grounds for contesting a will include:
- Diminished capacity: The person may claim that you were not of “sound mind” when you created your will.
- Undue influence: The person may accuse another family member of pressuring, deceiving or coercing you.
- Fraud or forgery: The person may allege that the will or your signature is not genuine.
- Mistake: The person may suggest that you signed the wrong document by accident.
Only heirs or people named in your will are eligible to contest it.
Preventing heirs from contesting a will
If you suspect someone may contest your will in court, you can include a no-contest clause. This clause requires an heir who unsuccessfully contests the will to forfeit his or her inheritance.
A no-contest clause might give your heirs a reason to think twice before contesting a will, but it is not a guarantee. Pennsylvania law prevents enforcement of a no-contest clause if there is probable cause for contesting the will, even if the court ultimately determines that the will is valid.
Another way to avoid a legal battle over your will is to include a letter of intent in which you explain why you have distributed your assets a certain way. This may help prove the validity of your will in court.
Estate planning can be challenging when you have reason to believe your heirs might not accept your wishes. Careful preparation can reduce the risk of a legal dispute.