How to help your heirs avoid inheritance disputes

Putting together a comprehensive estate plan is the best way to ensure your beneficiaries inherit property and wealth according to your current wishes. However, if you are not careful, your family may fight over the estate. Probate litigation may turn your heirs against one another as they watch their inheritances turn into legal fees.

Probate disputes are often caused by blended families, sibling rivalries and family grudges. Thankfully, you can take some proactive steps to prevent this from happening. Here are a few guidelines for preventing probate disputes:

Craft a comprehensive will

If you die without a will, there is a higher chance of an inheritance dispute. To develop a valid will, you must have the following elements:

  • Sound mind and body, known as testamentary capacity in legal terms
  • Lack of coercion
  • A proper list of all your assets and how you will assign each of them to your beneficiaries
  • Signature, date and a witness

You cannot guarantee that your heirs will love all the terms of your will, but a comprehensive will may reduce the incidence of argument.

Avoid probate

Probate can be an expensive and lengthy process, creating a negative environment that can quickly spark an argument among heirs. Probate can take several months and even years to finish. Fortunately, you can pass along some of your estate outside of probate. Some of the best strategies for avoiding probate include:

  • Creating a revocable living trust
  • Giving away assets and property as gifts before you pass away
  • Establishing joint ownership
  • Naming beneficiaries on retirement accounts, payable-on-death accounts and life insurance policies

When fewer assets pass through probate, there is a better chance that your estate will be distributed in harmony.

Sadly, you cannot guarantee your family members will not fight over your estate once you are gone. However, taking these actions now can help avoid inheritance disputes.

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