Avoiding Undue Influence Challenges in Probate Court
The thought of your friend, relatives or loved ones all fighting over what you may have left them when you are gone is, to say the least, distasteful. One of the overriding goals in estate planning is to create an estate plan that is clear, and which avoids challenges later on—challenges that can be expensive, and emotionally draining to your loved ones.
Undue Influence Claims
One way that many estate plans are challenged is through what is known as undue influence. Undue influence is when someone who was left out of your will, or left less than what he or she thought they were going to receive, says that when you created or altered your will or estate plan, you were being influenced, pressured, or coerced, by someone else.
Because as we get older, we rely on more people, and our health starts to fade, this is a common challenge, especially to those that draft or change estate plans later on in life.
But you can take steps now to avoid challenges to your estate plan based on undue influence.
Letters of Intent
One thing you can do is draft a letter of intent. A letter of intent doesn’t by itself leave anything to anybody. But it is an explanation of why you are doing what you are doing in your will or estate plan. This letter can clarify that you knew what you were doing, the ramifications of your actions, and that you weren’t being pressured by anybody when you made your will.
Another thing that you can do, is keep your relationship with your attorney, between you and the attorney, only. Limit how much third parties, like family, speak with your attorney. Don’t let others have the power to tell your attorney what you do or do not want. That should be reserved for only you.
Medical checkups are always important, but they can serve another purpose as well: if your capacity to make your own decisions is challenged in probate court, your medical record will be evidence that you knew what you were doing and were competent to make the decisions that you made.
You may even want to consider a doctor’s visit for a checkup, close in time to whenever you make your estate plan, and give your attorney the name of your physician, in case it is needed later on.
Using Witnesses or Neutrals
If you have people that neither stand to gain nor lose from your estate plan, consider including them as witnesses—both of the signing of documents, and to your decision-making process. Explain to them why you are doing what you are doing. Allow them to see that you aren’t relying on anybody, in making decisions about your estate plan.
These neutrals will be powerful witnesses in the event there is a challenge to your will.
Avoid challenges to your will. Draft a safe estate plan from the get go. Call the West Palm Beach estate planning lawyers at The Law Offices of Larry E. Bray today, for help.