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How can testators prevent fighting over their estate plans?

The creation of an Illinois estate plan can protect someone’s interests as they age and can establish a legacy after they die. Unfortunately, the best intentions of testators can end up undermined by the conduct of their family members.

Children, grandchildren and others with close relationships to an individual may have a profound sense of entitlement regarding their personal resources. They may fight over the assets in someone’s estate, possibly by initiating probate litigation. Contested Illinois estates cost much more to administer because of the litigation process. Is it possible for those planning their estates to prevent their families from fighting over their resources?

Specific estate planning choices can reduce litigation risks

There are several different ways for testators in Illinois to minimize the possibility of protracted probate issues during estate administration. Including a no-contest clause is a common strategy used by those concerned about future family conflicts.

A no-contest clause is a special inclusion in a will or trust that imposes an inheritance penalty for contesting an estate. A no-contest clause might potentially result in someone losing their inheritance if they try to challenge someone’s will. Unless the courts agree that someone brought the challenge and good faith, initiating probate litigation could be a reason to strip them of their inheritance. Testators might also consider creating trusts instead of using simple wills. Trusts generally offer better protection against probate litigation and give a testator more control over what happens to inherited resources.

Sometimes, the most important step a testator can take involves discussing their wishes with their family members. When people feel surprised and displeased with the terms of an estate plan, they may feel more inclined to initiate litigation during estate administration. If someone has clearly disclosed their wishes to their family members, people have time to adjust to the reality of the estate planning intentions of their loved one. While those conversations can be challenging, they can help someone reduce the conflict that occurs among their beneficiaries and the possibility of probate litigation after their passing.

Thinking carefully about family dynamics may help people take the right estate planning steps given their personal circumstances. Those worried about will contests may need to approach the process more carefully than those in stable family circumstances.

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