If you’ve spent your life building up valuable assets, you probably have strong opinions about what happens to them after you die. After all, bequeathing those assets to loved ones, family and even charitable organizations can be a way to build a lasting legacy after you pass on. Unfortunately, even if you take the time to carefully plan your estate and create a last will, your family members and heirs can challenge your plan and drag your estate through probate court.
There’s no reason why you simply have to accept that a will challenge could change your legacy. If you have reason to believe that your heirs or family members may fight over your assets or disagree with the terms of your will, you can take steps now to reduce that risk.
Be sure to talk with your heirs about your plans
The simplest and most effective thing you can do to prevent contests to your last will is talking to your heirs and family members about your plans. Disappointment is a common factor among those who contest wills. They may have expected particular assets, or perhaps for you to divide up your estate in a certain manner. If the plan deviates from those expectations, that person may feel like he or she should challenge or contest the will.
Although the conversation may be difficult to have, sitting down to talk with each of your heirs, children and close family members about your estate plan is a good decision. That way, the expectations of everyone involved reflect your actual intentions and plans, not just what they want to happen.
Consider including a no-contest clause in your will or estate plan
In many cases, the motivation for challenging a will stems from the desire to receive a larger portion of the estate. A no-contest clause can remove this motivation by creating a penalty for anyone who challenges your planned legacy. When you draft your will, including a no-contest clause allows you to reduce or even eliminate the inheritance of anyone who contests or challenges your will in probate court.
In general, Colorado courts uphold no-contest clauses. The only exception to this practice is when it is clear that the challenge was the result of probable cause. If the person who contests your will has a valid reason to believe that duress or undue influence impacted the terms of your will, the courts may decide not to enforce the no-contest clause and any penalties it contains.
Barring probable cause for concern about the estate plan, however, Colorado probate courts will generally enforce your no-contest clause and penalize any heir who chooses to bring a challenge to your estate or will.