My husband is dying and wants to update the beneficiaries in his will. I support all the changes he wants to make – but I don’t think all of our children will agree. How can I make sure his last wishes are followed?
I’m sorry you’re going through this difficult time. As time passes, things change: families change, and personal circumstances change. It’s smart of your husband to recognize that his final wishes for distributing his assets have changed and that he needs to take action to update his estate plan so that those wishes are honored. But you are correct to worry that everyone may not agree with his changes, and may even try to challenge his updated will or trusts in court.
We see most wills contested on for common grounds:
If someone is determined to challenge your estate plan after you are gone, they may sue your estate despite all your efforts to ensure your estate documents are legally executed. Challenging a will and estate litigation is expensive and time-consuming. There are steps you can take to minimize their chance of success and to make it less likely they will challenge your estate plan.
1. Make sure your will is properly executed.
An experienced estate planning attorney can ensure that the terms of your will are clear and comply with current state laws. All lawyers do not have expertise in wills and estate planning, so make sure your lawyer is knowledgeable about estate planning in your state. For example, in Illinois, you must have two witnesses watch you sign your will in order for it to be valid.
2. Document your competency to execute a will.
Someone could claim that the deceased lacked full mental capacity at the time he or she signed his or her will. An estate planning lawyer can help you show you were competent to draft your will by having a signed doctor’s statement of competency and having the will witnesses sign that you were “of sound mind and memory” when you signed your will.
3. Communicate your estate plans to your family.
Family conflict is the #1 threat to estate planning. Let everyone know what will happen after you die. When you sign your will, tell your family members and executor the terms of your will. If they understand the reasons behind your decisions and they have an opportunity to ask you questions, they will be less likely to contest the will – particularly if the rest of your heirs know why you made those decisions.
4. Keep your estate plan current.
An estate plan executed long ago that doesn’t take into account changes to your beneficiaries or your assets such as family births, marriage or divorces or the growth of a business, is more likely to be challenged. A regular review of your estate plan with your attorney will demonstrate the clarity of your intentions.
If your spouse’s will is challenged, an estate litigation attorney can protect your rights in court.
A skilled estate planning attorney can help make sure that your documents are legally executed and meet state laws. Creating and updating your estate plan to make sure your assets are distributed according to your wishes is an essential part of your estate plans. By working with an attorney, you could draft a will or trust that fits your goals now and in the future. To find out the best solution for your personal situation, contact one of our lawyers today and schedule an appointment at 630-864-5835.
AREAS WE SERVE: Cook, Dupage, Kane, Lake, and Will counties