Troubleshooting Legal Problems

Could a simple addition to your will prevent a probate challenge?

Whether you want most of your property to go to your grandchildren instead of your children or hope to allocate resources to a charitable cause, you might anticipate that your family members will be unhappy about your estate plan. Those who feel upset about not receiving what they expected or who think that the terms of someone’s will show that there was an outside influence on the planning process might consider challenging someone’s estate in Pennsylvania probate court.

Undue influence, fraud and a lack of testamentary capacity could all be reasons for someone to challenge an estate. Sometimes, people who are unhappy about their specific inheritance might even bring a challenge that most would find dubious. They could waste time and thousands of dollars of estate resources on litigation.

Can you prevent such challenges with a special clause in your will?

No-contest clauses can help Pennsylvania testators

Those who believe their legacy wishes may prove controversial or who have conflict-prone families may recognize that their chance of someone challenging their wishes is higher than the average person’s.

As such, they may want to include special terms in their estate plan. A no-contest clause or disinheritance clause can prevent people from pursuing a frivolous claim that undermines your wishes. A no-contest clause can reduce or eliminate the inheritance of someone who challenges your plans in probate court.

Pennsylvania probate judges typically uphold such clauses unless there’s probable cause to suspect fraud or another issue with the documents.

There are other ways to reduce challenge risks

In addition to adding special clauses to your will, there are other strategies you can employ to reduce the likelihood of your family members battling over your assets in probate court. Many people find that by talking with their loved ones about their wishes, they can avoid the shock and disappointment that may lead to litigation.

Others may want to consider adding a trust to their estate plans or arranging for certain property to transfer automatically so that it won’t be at risk in a probate litigation scenario. Learning more about Pennsylvania probate laws can help you decide what terms you might want to add to your estate planning documents.