Effective estate planning is crucial to avoid probate litigation. Those who have ambiguous or vague plans can see their estates' financial health deteriorate significantly while litigation is drawn out. Such legal action can also lead to familial strife that can last a lifetime. This is why it is important to engage in effective estate planning and make sure that any changes to an estate plan are clearly valid.
Media mogul Sumner Redstone recently found himself in the position of having to prove the validity of his estate plan after he amended his trust to write out his former companion. According to reports, the former companion initiated the litigation after she was removed from Redstone's health care directive and kicked out of his mansion. She claimed that Redstone lacked the mental capacity necessary to make those changes. A court found that Redstone was competent enough to amend his trust, and the former companion was also ordered to repay millions in gifts that she had received.
Issues regarding fraud, coercion, and duress often arise when elderly individuals, as well as those with mental health issues, seek to create, modify, or revoke an existing will or trust. This is why the process of creating, changing, or eliminating estate plan provisions need to be carefully documented in carried out in a legally valid way. This may mean having witnesses or even initiating a power of attorney to ensure that decisions are made in one's best interests.
Of course, not all disputes can be avoided. However, the risk of being embroiled in probate litigation can be significantly reduced through thorough, holistic estate planning. Skilled legal professionals stand ready to help individuals with this process so that they can rest easy knowing that their plan for their loved ones and their estate is as fully protected as is possible under the circumstances.