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Early estate planning can help avoid litigation later

Estate planning is smart for anyone but the aging of our population makes it even more important in new ways. Amending or creating wills or trusts at later ages opens up new opportunities for challenges to those plans, giving way to arguments that the deceased was not competent to make such decisions at that time.

A recent case illustrates this where a woman amended and signed a new will at the age of 98. She died at the age of 104 and her estate has yet to be settled. A trial date of September 2013, two years after her death, is expected and hoped to determine the final terms of her estate distribution. The estate in question is a large one, valued at $300 million, and includes charitable donations as well as the creation of a foundation for the woman’s doll and art collection. However, the case also illustrates the importance of wealth protection and sound estate planning no matter the size of the estate. 

Heirs or potential heirs can be quick to dispute whether or not the wishes of a deceased person truly represent a valid will. Will planning should always try to balance what is reasonable and what may help prevent a contest or litigation. Many situations can make will planning more complex, such as severed or strained familial relationships or lack of familial heirs.

Regardless of your financial situation, taking the time to consult with an estate planning attorney can be a wise decision. Making proper plans before it is too late can save headache for your heirs and prevent a good portion of your estate from going to litigation and probate costs.

Source: New York Times, “How to avoid an estate battle after you die,” Paul Sullivan, June 14, 2013

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