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Other options exist to avoid a will contest

The unfortunate truth of estate planning is that sometimes it can get nasty. If wills aren’t drawn out clearly, those who feel entitled to a share of the inheritance can start a dispute that could tie the estate up in probate for years. Florida residents wanting to spare their heirs this headache, as well as make sure their wishes are respected, have other options that could keep this worst case scenario from happening.

The last surviving daughter of copper miner William A. Clark left behind a large collection of art and dolls, three large homes, and an estate worth millions. She drafted two wills several years before her death two years ago, but distant relatives and charities are fighting over the $300 million her estate is worth. One will would have left the money to 21 relatives she’d never met, while the other left a large amount to her caregiver, a goddaughter, and established a foundation for her collections.

She also had left a Claude Monet painting valued at $25 million to Washington’s Corcoran Gallery of Art. Also at stake are millions of dollars which would go toward legal fees and estate taxes.

One way to avoid this type of will dispute is to draft a revocable trust. This type of trust allows the grantor access to the money during his or her lifetime, and allows other beneficiaries to be named. For huge estates, a professional trustee would be a good option. The owner of an estate can also draft a no-contest clause that will prevent heirs from disputing the will, or risk being cut out entirely.

Nobody wants to think that their estate will be fought over after they die. To avoid family battles, it’s a good idea to discuss the options with your estate planning attorney.

Source: The New York Times, “How to Avoid an Estate Battle After You Die,” Paul Sullivan, June 14, 2013

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