Making sure that assets are distributed as intended is the primary motivation for most people to create an estate plan. That same estate plan, however, can provide a variety of additional benefits to you and your family. One important benefit of creating a comprehensive estate plan is that it can dramatically decrease the likelihood of disputes, both while you are alive and after you are gone. To explain, the Indianapolis estate planning attorneys at Frank & Kraft help you understand how estate planning can help avoid disputes.
Avoiding Probate Disputes
After your death, your assets must be identified, located, valued, and eventually distributed to the intended beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of your estate. The legal process that oversees all of that is referred to as “probate.” As you may well imagine, disputes can occur during the probate of an estate. In fact, the frequency with which probate litigation occurs has been increasing in recent years. Some of the more common causes of probate litigation include:
- Disputes over how an intestate estate should be administered and/or assets distributed. If you die without a Last Will and testament your estate is referred to as an “intestate estate.” Intestate estate disputes often occur when more than one person wants to be in charge of administering the estate. Disputes also commonly occur when family members and/or loved ones claim that assets were “promised” to them by the decedent. Creating and executing a valid Will can avoid both disputes.
- Disputes over the validity of a Will. An heir or beneficiary may initiate a Will contest, alleging that the Will presented for probate is legally invalid. When a Will contest is initiated, the entire probate process effectively grinds to a halt to focus on the challenge to the Will. Until that issue is decided one way, or the other, probate cannot move forward because the outcome of the Will contest determines how the estate is probate. Working with an experienced attorney to create a solid, and legally valid, Will avoids the likelihood of this dispute and decreases the likelihood of a successful Will contest if one is filed.
Avoiding Trust Disputes
A trust can be activated while you are alive or after your death and can be contested in much the same way, and for most of the same reasons as a Will. Common trust disputes include things such as:
- The meaning/intent of vague trust terms
- The discretion a Trustee has to make distributions
- Whether a trust can/should be terminated
- Complaints about how the Trustee is fulfilling his/her duties
- Confusion or problems with how a trust interacts with other documents, such as a Will
Once again, working with an experienced attorney to create a comprehensive estate plan can prevent most trust disputes by ensuring that the trust terms are clear, the right Trustee is appointed, and the trust does not conflict with other estate planning documents.
Avoiding Disputes related to Your Incapacity
The odds of becoming incapacitated during your working years or as a result of old age are much higher than you likely realize. If you do become incapacitated, disputes may arise over things such as:
- Who controls your finances and assets
- Who takes care of your minor children
- Who makes healthcare decisions for you
- Who makes personal decisions for you
Your estate plan can help prevent these potential disputes by incorporating an incapacity planning component into the overall plan that may include a living Will, a healthcare power of attorney, a revocable living trust, and/or durable power of attorney.
Contact Indianapolis Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions about estate planning, contact the experienced Indianapolis estate planning attorneys at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.
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