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Consider These Essential Actions to Safeguard Against Estate Planning Controversies

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As you consider your estate planning, are you debating whether to include some essential actions to safeguard your estate from controversy? Were you aware that a key concern many adults have is how to avoid a will contest after their death? Why? Because a contested will can lead to prolonged court battles, strained family relationships, and can significantly deplete your estate’s assets. However, there are ways to avoid these risks, including essential actions you can take in your Florida estate planning to protect your estate. We would like to share those actions right here with you on our blog.

  1. Begin by working with an experienced estate planning attorney. First, and most important, take the action to begin working with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney. Your attorney can help ensure that your estate plan is legally sound, adheres to state laws, and clearly articulates your wishes. In addition, they can provide advice on strategies to minimize the chances of a will contest, including being sure all legal formalities are correctly followed. You need to be sure that you share any concerns about potential contests with your attorney and ask for tailored advice to avoid those risks.


  1. Consider having a conversation with your loved ones. Speak with your attorney first, but know that taking the action to be clear can often help misunderstandings and disputes be avoided. Think about discussing your estate plan, as well as your goals, with your loved ones. Now, of course, you do not need to divulge every detail, but explaining your decisions can help manage expectations and reduce the likelihood of surprises that could lead to future contests.


  1. Your decision makers need to be chosen wisely. It is absolutely imperative to select trustworthy and competent agents, personal representatives, and trustees. These are the people who will be responsible for working with your attorney to administer your estate and ensure your wishes are carried out. They must be able to handle the role effectively and communicate with beneficiaries, which can then greatly impact the probability of a dispute. With that said, you may want to discuss this important role with them to be sure they are willing to serve in this capacity before naming them in your estate plan. 


  1. You need to clearly plan out what you want. The easier your estate plan is to understand, the less room there is for interpretation or contention. Work with your experienced Florida estate planning attorney to be explicit about your wishes, including the distribution of specific assets. Your attorney may even recommend you write a letter that could accompany your estate plan for specific family members.


  1. Talk with your attorney about using tools, like trusts, to avoid probate. Be mindful that when you only use a last will and testament in your estate plan, your estate will need to go through the probate process. Why should that matter? Because the probate process is public and could open your estate up to challenges. On the other hand, when you decide to take the action to use a trust agreement and fund your assets into it, you can eliminate the need for probate and provide a more structured distribution through trust administration. 


  1. Make a commitment to regularly update your Florida estate plan. As we all know, life changes. And with these life changes, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children, the sale of a business, or acquiring significant assets there will be a need to update your Florida estate plan. By taking the action to regularly review and update your Florida estate plan to reflect these changes, you ensure that it accurately represents your current wishes and circumstances, reducing the potential for disputes.


  1. Take time to consider the emotional impact of your Florida estate plan. Be aware, there will be an emotional response to your estate plan, your death, and future inheritance. Unfortunately, unequal distributions or perceived slights can lead to hurt feelings and disputes within your family. Of course, you cannot control how others feel and you do not have to consider this in your planning, but taking the action to think about being as fair and thoughtful as possible in your approach can minimize negative emotions that might fuel a contest.

Finally, there is no way to guarantee that your estate plan will not be contested, but by taking these actions you can significantly reduce the risk. Be sure to talk about your specific concerns with your Florida estate planning attorney. You need to seek their advice and develop a comprehensive strategy that addresses potential challenges and works towards making sure your final wishes are respected and your loved ones are cared for as intended.

While this article might ignite more questions, it serves as a stepping stone towards understanding the nuanced world of power of attorney in Florida. When your family or financial health is on the line, trust attorney Paul Riffel to help you protect your interests and achieve your goals. Attorney Paul Riffel has been practicing law in Florida for over 41 years, focusing in the areas of Tampa estate planning and  family law. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with us.

Tampa Estate Planning Attorney

Paul Riffel Law is located in Tampa FL and serves clients in and around Brandon, Tampa, Valrico, Odessa, Thonotosassa, Gibsonton, Sydney, Dover, Land O Lakes, Oldsmar, Apollo Beach, Lithia, Safety Harbor, Trilby, Plant City, Durant, Holiday, Hillsborough County and Pasco County.

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