When families are forced to settle the estate of a loved one, serious disagreements can pop up. Estate litigation often diminishes the value of the estate and hurts family relationships, leaving broken hearts and ambiguity about the loved one’s intentions.

There are steps that you can take to plan for your family’s future and make sure they don’t need to fight for your estate in court. In this article, you will learn which actions can help reduce confusion and lessen the likelihood that your family will go through the painful, grueling, and expensive process of litigation.

5 Tips for Successful Estate Planning

estate planning

1. Communicate and involve your heirs in your estate planning.

It may seem obvious, but the best way to make sure your family isn’t left fighting over your estate is to communicate to your heirs about how you want your estate distributed.

This is especially important if the distribution you desire is atypical, such as wanting to distribute the estate unevenly, leaving a child out, etc. It’s best to be very clear, either in person or in a letter, with your heirs so no stones are left unturned.

2. Be as specific as possible about your beneficiaries in your estate plan.

The more specific you are about your beneficiaries the better. Each person’s inheritance should be clearly stated, and they should be listed by their relationship to you and their full name. Make sure to always update addresses and phone numbers as they change over the years.

If you plan on leaving any money to charities or organizations, you should ideally include their full names and tax identification numbers. There are a lot of organizations that have similar sounding names, so the more information on them the better.

3. Periodically review and update your estate-related documents, including IRAs, life insurance, and pensions.

It’s important to view your estate documents often, checking that the beneficiaries listed are still the ones you want as your life changes. An estate can be stuck in court for months if beneficiaries are not added or removed. If someone who is listed on your estate as a beneficiary dies before you do, it could cause a lot of confusion and angst in court for your family.

Be sure to review not only wills, but also your IRAs, life insurance policies, and pensions as they relate to the people and changes in your life.

4. Include a no-contest clause in your estate planning.

A no-contest clause means that if one of your heirs decides to fight the will or trust that you have left them and they lose in court, then that particular person will wind up with none of the estate at all. This type of clause discourages heirs from challenging your will, as the outcome is likely to be extremely unfavorable for any heir who tries.

5. Leave specific instructions in your will or trust for sentimental items.

Try your best to leave very specific instructions in your will or trust for any important or sentimental items you own. Without specificity, heirs may find themselves arguing over who should get what, ultimately causing rifts in their relationships.

You should also update your personal property memorandum to help eliminate any questions your heirs may have when you’re gone.

6. Get your estate documents drafted and prepared by a trusted estate lawyer.

One of the most common reasons for estate litigation is a written will or trust that wasn’t properly drafted. Always get your estate documents drafted and prepared with the help of a trusted lawyer who can ensure all of your information is correct and complete.

Where to Find a Trusted Lawyer to Help With Your Estate Planning

estate planning

Anderson Hunter Law Firm has been serving clients in Snohomish County, Skagit County, Island County, King County, and San Juan County for over a century. We practice law in a variety of sectors, including family issues, estate planning, business and commercial practices, personal injury, and more.

If you’re looking for a well-reputed lawyer to help you manage your estate, look no further. Our lawyers and legal team members have significant expertise in complex estate and tax planning, including integration with business ownership and transition considerations.

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