Common Estate Planning And Probate Issues And How To Avoid Them

Estate planning and the probate process can often seem like a straightforward affair, but with the complexity of different types of estates, we see a myriad of issues that frequently arise. 

Disputes over wills, trust complications, and other matters can make an already challenging time even more difficult for grieving families. Here, we want to outline some of the common issues we’ve seen over the years and offer proactive measures to avoid them.

1. Ambiguous or Outdated Wills

Issue: One of the most common issues in estate disputes arises from wills that are either ambiguously worded or outdated. For instance, an old will might still have provisions for ex-spouses, deceased relatives, or previous beneficiaries. Ambiguous language can lead to confusion about the deceased’s true intentions.

Solution: Regularly review and update your will. Life changes such as births, deaths, marriages, and divorces should trigger a review. Also, ensure that your will is written clearly, with specific bequests and unambiguous language.

2. Undue Influence or Coercion

Issue: It’s not uncommon for some parties to claim that the deceased was coerced into making certain decisions in their will. This could be due to alleged influence from a new spouse, caretaker, or other interested parties.

Solution: To counteract this, it’s wise to have the will drafting and signing witnessed by unbiased individuals who can vouch for the testator’s state of mind and freedom from coercion.

3. Lack of Testamentary Capacity

Issue: A will can be contested if the deceased was believed to be mentally incapable of understanding the consequences of their decisions when creating the will.

Solution: If there are concerns about mental capacity (due to age, illness, etc.), consider having a medical professional present or obtaining a medical evaluation at the time the will is drafted.

4. Improper Execution

Issue: For a will to be valid in North Carolina, certain formalities must be observed. For instance, it must be signed by the testator and witnessed by at least two competent people.

Solution: Work with David Anderson to ensure your will is drafted and executed properly.

5. Forgotten Digital Assets

Issue: In today’s digital age, many people have online assets like social media accounts, digital currencies, and online bank accounts. These can often be overlooked in estate planning.

Solution: Make sure to include digital assets in your will and provide clear instructions for their disposition. Consider tools like digital asset trusts.

6. Family Feuds and Misunderstandings

Issue: Emotions run high after the loss of a loved one, and disputes can arise over who gets certain assets, especially items of sentimental value.

Solution: Be as specific as possible in your will. If there are items you know may cause disputes, discuss them with your family beforehand or consider giving them away during your lifetime.

7. Absence of a Will

Issue: When someone dies intestate (without a will), it can lead to complications and disagreements about how assets are to be distributed.

Solution: The simplest solution is to have a will in place. This ensures that your wishes are honored and reduces the potential for disputes.

8. Trust Disputes

Issue: Trusts, while beneficial for many reasons, can also be a source of contention, especially when beneficiaries disagree on interpretations or trustees’ actions.

Solution: Ensure the trust document is clear, regularly review it, and choose a trustworthy and unbiased trustee. Consider using a professional or corporate trustee if family dynamics might complicate the administration.

Proactive Steps for a Smooth Estate Planning Process

To make sure your estate plan accomplishes its goals, taking proactive measures is essential. First and foremost, it’s important to work with an estate planning professional – David and his team have helped countless individuals and business owners craft an estate plan to meet their goals and protect their legacies. We will help navigate the intricacies of the law, making sure your documents stand up to legal scrutiny and truly reflect your wishes.

Open communication is another pivotal element. By discussing your intentions and estate plans with your family members, you can mitigate potential surprises and misunderstandings that might arise after your passing. 

Lastly, it’s wise to revisit and update your estate plan periodically, especially after significant life events like births, marriages, or asset acquisitions. This continuous revision ensures that your plan remains current and in line with your evolving circumstances and wishes.

Contact Our Wilmington Estate Planning Team Today

While estate planning and probate can come with challenges, many disputes and complications can be avoided with proper foresight and planning. By being proactive, seeking professional guidance, and communicating with loved ones, you can pave the way for a smoother process that respects your final wishes and protects your legacy.

If you’re considering creating or revising your estate plan, the team at David E Anderson PLLC is here to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and make sure your estate plan accomplishes your goals!

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