Whatever you stage of life and wealth level, it is important to plan in advance for the distribution of your property and other matters that arise at the end of life. There are a wide variety of estate planning instruments that may help you meet your goals and an attorney experienced in this area of the law can help you understand the options to reach a decision that best provides for your family and loved ones.
A properly drafted and executed will allows the court to know and follow your wishes regarding the distribution of property after death. In the absence of a will, the court will follow the rules of intestate succession that may produce results very different than you would have chosen. Some people attempt to write their own wills, but may not be aware of important legal requirements necessary to ensure the will is effective or may use language that creates an ambiguity and leads to expensive litigation. Other estate planning instruments may also be helpful to ensuring not only that one’s wishes are honored, but also that the costs of administering the estate are kept to a minimum. An attorney’s advice in this area can be invaluable.
The formal process of distributing a decedent’s estate is known as probate. For those who have an interest in the estate (such as individuals named in a will), it can be important to seek legal advice to ensure that their interests are protected during the process.
In some cases, questions arise about the meaning or validity of a will. An experienced litigator can help you to ensure proper distribution of an estate if such issues exist. For example, a will procured by fraud is void, but it is not usually clear from the face of the will that it was procured by fraud. Thus, if you seek to challenge such a will because you know it does not reflect the decedent’s plans for distribution or because you want to prevent the person who committed fraud from profiting, you will need a lawyer who will listen to your story and then put in the effort necessary to uncover evidence to support your case.