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How to prevent will contests

You can expect emotions to run high for your beneficiaries when you die. While it is normal for them to feel sad or have questions about your estate plan, the last you want to happen is for someone to legally challenge the will. Will contests can drag on for years and cause irreparable family rifts.

While you cannot guarantee your family will not fight over your will, you can take some steps to minimize contention. Here are some tips for preventing your heirs from squabbling over your estate.

Make sure you execute it properly

Proper execution of your will is paramount to ensuring it holds up in court and that your wishes are carried out. In order to create a valid will in Missouri, you must sign it with two witnesses who must also sign it. You must also be of sound mind. While the law does not require it, you can also decide to “self-prove” your will by having it notarized.

Explain decisions to family members

If you think something in your will may cause some confusion or resentment among heirs, do your best to explain the reasoning behind it. This is especially necessary if someone is getting a reduced portion of your estate or getting left out altogether. While you do not need to disclose every detail of your estate plan, keeping heirs in the loop can defuse conflict.

Avoid the appearance of undue influence

One common reason that a beneficiary may challenge your will is by arguing that someone coerced you into making certain decisions. For example, if you are giving a sizeable share of assets to your child who is also your caregiver, your other children may assume that child is taking advantage of you. Remove this possibility by not including any heirs in the drafting or signing process. Any sign of undue influence may give people a reason to litigate the will.