There is a common saying that one bad apple spoils the bushel. The scientific basis for this statement is the fact that apples give off a ripening hormone. When one apple suddenly spoils, other apples in close proximity may wind up ripening prematurely and rotting as well.
Such a unique scenario may seem far from something with universal applicability, but in reality, that saying can apply to an estate plan or last will. It only requires one selfish heir or beneficiary to challenge your last will or estate plan and throw your carefully considered legacy wishes into chaos.
Is there someone you worry could challenge your will?
If you are at an age where estate planning is at the forefront of your mind, you likely already know the personalities and behaviors of the people in your family. You may know with absolute certainty which member of your family would likely bring a challenge against your last will.
Whether it’s a child with an overwhelming sense of entitlement or a spouse with an addiction problem whose inheritance you have chosen to limit, the potential absolutely exists for someone to challenge your estate plan if the terms you set for your legacy don’t align with their wishes.
Transparency can reduce conflict
Perhaps the most straightforward way to reduce family conflict and dissatisfaction with the terms of your will or estate plan is to have a fully transparent approach to the creation of these documents and plans.
If everyone in your extended family already knows that you intend to disinherit one of your children or create a trust to prevent someone from spending inherited assets on drug addiction or gambling, it is less likely for someone to file a challenge out of disappointment or shock after the reading of your will in the future.
Unfortunately, there are cases in which even those who have been open and forthcoming about their estate planning intentions will have their wishes challenged after their death. Thankfully, there is one final tactic to deter such challenges.
Your will can include a provision to disinherit someone who challenges it
Your estate represents your financial and practical legacy for your family and the world at large. Whether you want to provide for a disabled family member or create a charitable trust, what you do with your assets and your legacy is your decision.
If you want to ensure that no one in your family brings a spurious challenge against your estate in the greedy hope of securing a larger portion of the overall estate, you can include a no-contest clause. These special provisions disinherit or substantially reduce the inheritance of an individual who challenges your estate plan or last will.
In most cases, except when someone brings a challenge in good faith, meaning they believe the last will is invalid for some reason, Illinois probate courts will uphold no-contest clauses. That makes them a good tool for those worried about challenges to their last will.