Large, high-value estates often require intricate and complex estate plans. Lawyers must account for the will, insurance policies, trusts, 401(k)s, and more as they draft comprehensive plans that protect their client’s estate. However, even the most thorough plans cannot prevent all contests, especially those originating from heirs.
Owners of large estates often have large families with many heirs. When hearing the will, one or more children may feel slighted at the value of their inheritance. Combined with the grief of losing a parent and conflict between siblings, some heirs may file contests against the will. Contests can hold assets up in probate court, further diminishing the estate’s value with extensive legal fees and governmental oversight. How can parents prevent these contests and preserve their legacy?
3 steps to transparent estate planning
Parents can introduce a bit of transparency into their end-of-life plans with three simple steps. Following these allows one’s heirs a glimpse into the complexities of managing a large estate and their role therein:
- Seek out an experienced lawyer: Lawyers best suited to manage high-value estate plans leverage their experience and connections to provide comprehensive protection. Financial advisors and accountants can provide recommendations.
- Draft a financial review: A lawyer can help parents assemble a financial review. This document contains shorthand information on the entirety of the estate. A financial review includes a list of owned assets, liabilities and beneficiaries of insurance policies; contact information for all finance professionals with knowledge of the estate; login information for banking and investment websites; and a legacy letter that details the recipients of family heirlooms and nonfinancial items.
- Host a family meeting: Parents can inform their heirs and field questions at a family meeting. A meeting allows children to voice their concerns and work out differences over the will in real-time. Parents can listen to feedback and make appropriate changes after consulting with their lawyers. A meeting also allows a family to meet the estate executor and reduce skepticism over their credentials.
Need to design an estate plan? Find a lawyer first
Those interested in preventing will contests can ask a lawyer about introducing transparency into their estate plan. An attorney can help organize decades worth of financial records, evaluate assets and draft a will that satisfies heirs.