If you go through the effort of creating a last will, trust or estate plan, you likely do so because you want your final wishes and instructions followed. You may want certain assets to go to certain people, donations to go to a favorite charity or even have pets assigned to the care of trusted family members. You may even want to reduce issues with handling your estate and taxes. However, it’s not uncommon for testators to worry about one (or more) of their children contesting their will.
If one person believes that he or she should receive more of the estate than is allocated in the will, that person could ask the probate court to step in. Your estate and all its assets could end up in legal limbo for many months, and all your planning could end up being for nothing. If you have reason to worry about this happening in your family, you can take special steps to prevent unnecessary contestation of your last will and estate plan.
Consider adding a no contest clause to your will
When you create your last will, trust or estate plan, you can include a clause that penalizes or even disinherits anyone who challenges the will in court. That alone could be enough to keep an heir from trying to get more than you decided to leave him or her. It’s important to know, however, that your no-contest clause isn’t airtight in Illinois.
Illinois law is somewhat unclear about no-contest clauses. In general, the courts tend only to enforce no-contest clauses if they believe the contest to the will or estate was not made in good faith. There have been precedent cases where probate courts have chosen not to uphold a no-contest clause because the courts determined that it was the result of a claim in good faith.
Talk to your heirs about what they can expect
One of the best and simplest ways to ensure that your heirs and family members don’t contest the will is to explain it to each individual ahead of time. It may feel morbid to discuss your last will with your loved ones, but doing so can help ensure that no one feels shocked or upset by its contents. If your loved ones understand why you arranged things as you did and what they are likely to receive when your estate gets resolved, you could reduce or eliminate the potential for some contestations.
It can also help to tell your family about your no-contest clause. If people know ahead of time that you’ve taken steps to disinherit those who can’t respect your last wishes, it could keep them from trying to challenge your last will or estate plan after your passing.