Dodging the Will Contest
A Will contest usually occurs when a person thinks he or she is not getting as much of a deceased person’s property and possessions as is deserved. It fundamentally comes down to heirs squabbling about how much inheritance they will receive.
While it may not be possible to keep heirs from thinking they got the short end of the stick, there are some steps that can be taken to decrease either the likelihood, or the success, of such disputes.
Being sure to include a “no contest” provision in your Will is a great first step. That is simply a provision that says that, if any heir attempts to contest the terms of the Will or its validity, that heir is not to receive any of the estate.
Another useful provision is to list the names of all of one’s children in the Will. This is a simple statement at the beginning of the Will that, “The names of all of my children are _____________.”
Naming all of one’s children precludes any child (who may have not been included in the list of the persons who are to inherit the estate) from later attempting to argue that you forgot about him or her.
An elderly person, who might later be accused of having been senile when the Will was created, may also want to consider obtaining a letter from his or her doctor shortly after the Will was made that expresses the doctor’s opinion that the person had sufficient mental capacity to make such a Will. The original of that letter should then be stored with the Will itself in case a contest occurs.
Finally, creating the Will utilizing all of the necessary formalities is also helpful. There are a few simpler options that can still result in a valid Will, but a Will that includes (1) the signatures of two independent witnesses and (2) a formal notarization of the entire document is the strongest form of a Will. It is what the lawyers and judges call a “self-proving” Will.
By taking these basic steps, the chances of a Will contest occurring decrease significantly. And, even if a contest occurs, the chances of the contest being successful will be almost zero.