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Designing wills to combat disgruntled heirs and beneficiaries

No matter how hard a Massachusetts resident tries, there is always the possibility that an heir or beneficiary will not be happy with an inheritance -- or the lack of one. That person could file a will contest with the probate court, which could delay the distribution of the estate and cost it additional monies that could otherwise be distributed. That is why it is important to design and update wills in order to forestall the potential for those who are disgruntled to cause problems after a family member passes away.

The question is how to prevent -- or at least limit -- this potential. The first line of defense is often to include provisions in the will that penalize anyone who contests the will. Such "no contest" provisions are most effective when the potential contest comes from someone who is already receiving a share of the estate, but believes that he or she is entitled to more. The provisions can either reduce an inheritance by a certain percentage or deny it all together.

Keeping a will up-to-date is another way to prevent problems after death. A periodic review of estate planning documents can identify needed changes. For example, if someone named in the will has died, failing to remove that person could cause issues. Furthermore, relationships change all of time, and those changes need to be reflected.

Even if it is difficult to believe that anyone would contest the will, people and circumstances change. When Massachusetts residents discuss the contents of their wills with their family members and their attorneys, the possibility of no-contest provisions should be discussed. Furthermore, making sure that the provisions of the will continue to represent an individual's wishes can also help.

Source: washingtonblade.com, "Myths of estate planning", Lawrence S. Jacobs, Aug. 12, 2016

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