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Can your will prohibit heirs from bringing estate litigation?

Individuals may hope that a comprehensive estate plan will minimize conflict among their heirs and beneficiaries. Yet a variety of disputes can arise, sometimes over practical arrangements.

For example, an individual may have added one child who lives locally to his or her bank accounts just as a convenience. The selection may have seemed logical because other children living far away may not be in a position to attend to the parent's day-to-day affairs. After the parent’s passing, those jointly-held accounts would pass to the child, even if the individual had a different intent.

Including a no-content clause in a will might be a good idea if an individual is making unequal distributions to heirs, or perhaps has other reasons to suspect conflict. Although a testator cannot legally prevent an individual from utilizing the court system, his or her last will and testament could exclude a beneficiary from any inheritance in the event of an unsuccessful will challenge.

The specific New York law that permits no-contest clauses in certain estate situations is the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 3-3.5. Our estate planning attorneys are familiar with this and other estate-planning strategies designed to help individuals transfer their assets with a minimum of hassle.

We also work with individuals to provide instructions to estate administrators. Ideally, assets will transfer to a surviving spouse or named beneficiaries and heirs without litigation, such as creditors demanding payment via a contested will lawsuit. A variety of documents may put that estate plan in place, including simple or complex wills, trusts, powers of attorney, healthcare proxies and even family limited partnerships.

Source: Forbes, “Do You Really Need A Will?” Rosie Wolf Williams, Aug. 16, 2016

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