Whenever people discuss or write about estate planning, there seems to be one overriding goal: Avoiding a contested estate. But why is a contested estate something to avoid? Why does it matter if an estate is contested? The Lincolnshire estate planning lawyers at Orlowsky & Wilson can help.
Legal and Non-Legal Reasons
Some of the reasons why you don’t want a contested estate are legal, but some are not legal.
For example, you may not want a contested estate, simply because the thought of your family members fighting with each other when you are gone is (quite understandably) distasteful. You are going through the process of an estate plan, to make sure that people are taken care of when you are gone—not to create family strife.
Time and Costs
But there are a number of legal reasons why you don’t want a contested estate.
The obvious reasons are the time and costs of a court process. A contested estate is no different than complex business litigation or the complexities, time, and emotion that may be involved in a bitterly contested divorce. These proceedings take time and drain your family’s finances. In the end, like most litigation, there is always at least one party that is unhappy.
Any time a will or an estate is probated, it is a public process, because the court system is a public forum. Courts may have to do inventories, and your estate documents may have to be filed in public records.
Aside from those disclosures when a will is probated normally, now you add the information that is passed back and forth—and thus, made public—when an estate becomes contested. Details about you, your finances, your health records, and your family, may become public when you don’t want them to be as your family argues about these issues.
A contested estate may mean that the court has more involvement than you want it to have. Outside of court, if you want to sell a home, you just sell it the way you’d sell any other home. But with a court involved, the court now has to approve of the sale price, the realtor, inspections, and a host of other decisions.
Compound that by adding battles between your beneficiaries, and every single decision, from who to use to sell the property, to what a fair sale price is, becomes a hotly contested (and thus, an expensive and time-consuming) matter.
Giving Assets to People You Don’t Want to Have Them
In order to settle a contested matter, your estate may end up going to someone you don’t want it to go to.
Let’s assume that an ex-wife contests your estate because you left her nothing. Your estate and your beneficiaries may have to pay her something, just to resolve the case—that’s something that you didn’t want to, and didn’t intend to leave to her.
Your Lincolnshire estate planning attorney at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd at (847) 325-5559 can help you create an estate plan and try to avoid any contested estate.