It’s well known that the death of a relative, particularly one who has a substantial estate, can bring out the worst in some people. If you worry that your descendants or beneficiaries may not see eye to eye, you need to consider safe guarding your estate. In Chicago, estate planning lawyers can walk you through the steps needed to make your last will and testament as clear and ironclad as possible. Some of these steps will seem obvious, but others may surprise you. Talking to Chicago probate attorneys may also help you clarify certain problems in your estate and resolve them.
Keep Clear, Concise Records
There are few documents as important as your will and testament. Careless record keeping or the lack of clear instructions can immediately turn your demise into a war, particularly if you’ve written more than one will in the past. If someone is questioning the validity of your latest will, the executor of your estate or your estate planning lawyers should be able to produce unmistakable proof that the will in question is not only the last one you signed, but that it was clearly your intent that its instructions be followed.
Keep detailed, precise notes of every meeting with your Chicago estate planning lawyers, including any conversations about the content of your will. Record every date and time that you meet with your estate planning lawyers and the result of each meeting. Keep signed, witnessed copies of your current will as well as any prior wills in existence, but make sure you clearly designate which one is currently in force.
Taking notes during meetings with your estate planning lawyers is always a good idea. Trying to reconstruct your conversations after the fact can lead to problems, particularly if others remember the conversation differently. If you don’t think you can take accurate, detailed notes, invest in a small tape recorder or video camera and record the meeting with your estate planning lawyers, keeping the tape or tapes in a safe place with all copies of your will.
Among the records you should keep are any talks you have with your estate planning lawyers, discussions that take place while you’re drafting the will, and any guidance given to you by your will attorney. A detailed paper trail and recordings can combine to ensure that your final wishes are clearly understood by your heirs and estate planning attorneys. Your heirs should be able to produce a definite paper trail that ends with your current will, but don’t neglect leaving copies with others, including your will attorney.
Don’t Let Your Competency Be Called Into Question By Probate Attorneys Or Unhappy Heirs
You’ve probably heard of cases where neglected heirs have called a will into question because they believe the author of the will wasn’t in his or her right mind. Some people contest a will based on the premise that the author was being coerced or unduly influenced when the will was written. To be sure this doesn’t happen with your estate, have a doctor examine you on the day you sign any legal documents, including your will. Have the doctor verify in writing that you are of sound mind and body and keep this document with any and all copies of your will.
The witnesses you choose for your will can also verify your mental state when you sign your will. This is why Chicago estate planning attorneys recommend you have three witnesses or more, rather than the two witnesses required by law. Choose your witnesses carefully; they shouldn’t be strangers to you or each other. Close friends or acquaintances you’ve known for years are the best witnesses, as they can testify at a later date as to your mental state and competency.
Make Sure Your Will Is Clearly Written, With No Ambiguity
Chicago estate planning lawyers have seen many wills that are poorly drafted or unclear. They know how difficult it can be to enforce an ambiguous will and they’ll help you write a will that is crystal clear. One of the most common mistakes Chicago probate attorneys see is wills that were written by individuals using budget, “one size fits all” templates found online. Trying to write a will using generic legal software is also a recipe for a long, drawn-out legal battle over your estate. Always have your will written by experienced estate planning attorneys.
Be Honest When Talking To Your Heirs
Many wills turn into estate battles because the deceased re-wrote his or her will and either didn’t tell anyone, or didn’t explain any changes clearly. While you may want to avoid a confrontation with potential heirs who may be disappointed, it’s always best to be honest. Letting everyone know the specifics of your will can eliminate thousands of dollars in legal fees and prevent an ugly family feud after your death.
You should also make sure anyone you want to disinherit is unmistakable designated as such in your will and testament. Chicago estate planning lawyers can help you deal with this sensitive situation. This will minimize potential disagreements based on someone’s claim that they were accidentally or unintentionally excluded.
Take the time now to meet and work with experienced estate planning lawyers in order to reduce the chances of a protracted battle among heirs later. If your will is concise and clearly drafted, the chances that probate attorneys will be needed is minimized and your heirs will be more likely to abide by your wishes.