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Defensive moves to prevent fights over your will

When a person dies, everything in his or her estate must be distributed according to the wishes left in the will. Unfortunately, even when a person writes a will, that does not always ensure that everything will go smoothly during the estate administration process.

In some situations, the choices a person makes may cause his or her beneficiaries to question whether the decision was intentional. For example, was one child supposed to receive a larger portion of the estate than his or her siblings? Was an heirloom collection of jewelry intended to be divided only among the daughters, or should the brothers' wives receive a portion as well?

Regardless of what your intentions are when you're writing a will, if there is anything that could be confusing or insulting to your heirs, you may be setting your loved ones up for a will contest. By following the suggestions below, you can help avoid an unnecessary battle after your death.

The most important rule for avoiding will contests is treating people with the same degree of relation to you equally. That means treating your kids equally, treating your siblings equally and treating your grandchildren equally.

One estate planning lawyer said that people fight because "they feel they aren't getting a fair slice of control." Even if equal treatment is not your first choice, it is probably the best defensive move.

Although there are some situations that can complicate that rule - such as children from multiple marriages, stepchildren or a child's unexpected death - it is generally best to follow that as much as possible.

Read more in upcoming posts to learn more suggestions about ways to make your estate planning documents lawsuit-proof.

Source: Forbes, "10 Ways to Lawsuit-Proof Your Estate," Ashlea Ebeling, 13 July 2011

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