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What steps can you take to avoid conflict over your last will?

Far too many people put off the process of planning their estate or creating a last will. It can be difficult and humbling to consider your own mortality. However, if you have family members that depend on you or have accrued sizable assets over the course of your adult life, failing to create an estate plan could mean losing out on an opportunity for a legacy.

It could also result in a lot of conflict within your family. Even if you have a last will in place, there may be family members or heirs who won't agree with your wishes. Thankfully, you can take steps during the planning process to reduce the risk of someone challenging your will.

Communication is key to success

The most important thing that you can do to reduce the risk of a challenge to your estate plan or last will is to tell your family members about your intentions. Not understanding the wishes of the testator is a common source of conflict during estate administration.

Especially in situations where you are reducing the inheritance of one heir or completely disinheriting someone, like an addicted child, communication about your plans is very important.

Consider adding a no-contest clause to your will

If you have already talked with your family about your plans, but you're still worried about the potential for conflict, including a no-contest clause may be your best option. A no-contest clause allows you to penalize anyone who brings an unnecessary challenge against your estate.

The state of Massachusetts will typically uphold these clauses if your estate ends up in probate court. The only exception to that is when the challenge is brought with probable cause, meaning the heir had reason to suspect undue influence or other complicating factors in the creation of your will. Otherwise, the courts will usually penalize heirs, up to and including full disinheritance, for violating a no-contest clause in Massachusetts.

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