Estate litigation is one of the most common types of litigation a Chicago elder law firm will see. Disagreements over the division of wealth or prized possessions can tear even the closest family apart. But these disagreements can be avoided with a little advance planning. A simple will can stop many types of litigation in Chicago from ever starting. While you can never predict estate litigation, you can minimize the likelihood of your will or estate being taken to court by incorporating these tips into your will.
7 Ways To Avoid Estate Litigation In Chicago
1. Keep things equal. The biggest trigger for familial litigation in Chicago is when the children of the decedent are treated unequally. If you want to avoid having your will contested, divide your assets equally among your children. Do not favor one over the other for any reason, including stepchildren. In the eyes of the law, all children, stepchildren or not, have equal right to the inheritance. If you’ve decided to disinherit a child for some reason or another, include that in legal documents or that child will be able to make a claim to your property and assets.
2. Give away prized possessions ahead of time. The easiest way to prevent arguments from breaking out over who gets mom’s fine china or dad’s antique car are to give those possessions to their intended recipients while you’re still alive and able to voice your wishes. If you want certain things to go to certain heirs after you pass, include an inventory of the items along with your wishes for who gets what.
3. Record loans given out. If you have given one child a loan and not another, record it. Spell out the terms of the loan – is the child expected to pay it back, will it be deducted from their inheritance amount or will it be forgiven upon your death? Decide on the terms and include that with your legal documents.
4. Use formal agreements to transfer assets. Trusts and contracts are useful tools to transfer assets to an heir and avoid litigation. Chicago families who have businesses they want to pass on to a specific child often use contract of sale to do so. Contracts of law that are completed when you’re alive are hard to challenge and offer solid proof of your wishes.
Trusts are used in estate plans to transfer real property. A trust allows you to live on the property for a set period of time after which ownership is transferred to the heir you’ve designated. A trust can be enacted any time, even when you’re still alive.
5. Get a doctor’s note. The most common argument we hear in estate litigation in Chicago is that the parent was not of sound mind when he or she made their will or signed their legal documents. The best way to stop this argument in its tracks is to have your attending physician and a psychiatrist sign off on your physical and mental health at the time that you create or sign your will.
6. The “no-contest” clause. If you know that someone will be unhappy with your will and may try to challenge it, add a no-contest clause. These clauses often stop litigation before it starts because they state that any beneficiary who contests the will forfeits his or her interests in it. This is a very effective tool to prevent estate litigation in Chicago, particularly if the expected troublemaker is getting something he or she really wants.
7. Don’t wait. Draw up a will now. Do it while you’re healthy and aware of what your wishes are. If you wait until you’re ill, you are asking for litigation. Someone is certain to argue that your illness made you confused and you didn’t understand what you were doing or they can argue that you were coerced by another beneficiary into doing their bidding. What’s even worse? If you wait too long to draw up your will these things may become true. You don’t want to be in a situation where you could be coerced into doing something you don’t want to do. Get a will drawn up now and prevent the drama before it starts.
Contact the elder law attorneys at Peck Ritchey for assistance in drawing up a will or designing an estate plan. We can help you design a plan that will decrease the likelihood of litigation in Chicago and ensure your wishes are fulfilled.