People may think that estate plans, trusts and asset management plans are only for people who are very wealthy. Someone may have a modest lifestyle and few or no relatives and think that there is no reason to have an estate plan in place. However, without this planning, a person will have no control over what happens to their properties, debts or assets after they have died.
The fact is that there can be some serious and contentious battles over a person’s estate after they are gone, no matter how substantial it may or may not be. Kids may fight over a particular item or a property. Ex-spouses and distant relatives may suddenly feel inclined to claim some part of the estate. One way to prevent all this drama from taking place is to work with a California estate planning attorney to develop a comprehensive plan that addresses and avoids some common issues.
One issue that often comes up involves a person’s will. People can challenge the legitimacy of a will based on when it was drafted. If it was immediately before a person passes away or it hasn’t been updated in years, the timing may be called into question. Wills can also be challenged when there are multiple versions in circulation.
Another issue that often comes up is disputes between heirs. People who pass away and do not have any close heirs may end up having their assets fought over by distant relatives they may have never met. Instead of leaving a will open to be disputed by strangers and unknown relatives, a person can develop a very clear and direct will that specifically addresses the people or organizations who should be involved.
Finally, it can be important for a person to remember that even if an estate is not worth millions of dollars, it can still be very valuable to certain people. Rather than give people the opportunity to spend way too much time and money contesting a will, a person may want to consider having a clear and fair will that properly articulates a person’s wishes. In some cases, it may also be appropriate to hire an independent trustee to deal with any disputes or tension that arises.
Source: The New York Times, “How to Avoid an Estate Battle After You Die,” Paul Sullivan, June 14, 2013