The Ultimate Guide to Lawsuit-Proofing Your Estate Plan

The Ultimate Guide to Lawsuit-Proofing Your Estate Plan

Here's a scary question:

Does your estate plan actually protect your estate?

You spent all that time and money to make sure that your estate will be protected from taxes, from probate, and from creditors — but you may have forgotten one major thing:

You forgot to protect your estate from your heirs.

The sad truth is that children and other heirs often fight over the estate of a deceased loved one, even if the decedent left a valid estate plan. And fighting often means lawsuits.

Heirs can contest an estate plan for a number of reasons: jealousy, greed, sibling rivalries or disagreements. Regardless of why a lawsuit is filed, it means trouble for everyone involved.

How to Recognize Fraud in Estate Planning

How to Recognize Fraud in Estate Planning

Suppose your mother has dementia. Her nurse convinces her that he is her only child and has her sign estate planning documents leaving all of her assets to him and expressly disinheriting you and any of her other children. Are those documents valid? Likely not, as your mother has been the victim of fraud.

What is fraud?

There are several ways fraud can be committed in the estate planning process, but the type of fraud we will discuss in this article is referred to as fraudulent inducement. Let's say your mother executed a Last Will and Testament. You could challenge that Will if your mother was fraudulently induced into leaving her property to a person she would not normally have left it (in the example above, the nurse).

The #1 Argument Against DIY Estate Planning

The #1 Argument Against DIY Estate Planning

Can I make a "Do It Yourself" estate plan?

The phrase "Do It Yourself" calls to mind weekend trips to Home Depot and saving money. And while some aspects of home improvement may be proper to do yourself (e.g., painting walls or building a patio), things get trickier when you try to act as a plumber, excavator, or electrician. Performing those tasks incorrectly — resulting in broken gas mains or electrical shocks — could have disastrous consequences.

(Forbes has published several famous do-it-yourself estate planning horror stories)

The same is true of "Do It Yourself" (or "DIY") estate planning. Although do-it-yourself estate planning services may seem like a bargain, just remember: you get what you pay for. In many cases, these services merely provide generic forms that do not take into account your financial situation, family relationships, tax consequences, and other important factors. More than all of those things, however, the number one argument against using a do-it-yourself estate planning service is this: the documents may not comply with the legal requirements in your state.