Mottley Law Firm - April 2020

4/20

THE MOTTLEY CREW REVIEW

www.MottleyLawFirm.com | (804) 823-2011

AVOIDING CONFLICT

3 T I PS FOR PREVENT ING ESTATE AND TRUST D I SPUTES

As an attorney, I’m often asked what type of law I practice. Because that question comes up so much — during Uber rides, at dinner parties, and just about everywhere else — my responses have almost become second nature. When I tell people that a large part of my practice involves handling estate and trust disputes, I usually explain that we don’t prepare wills or trusts. We get involved in situations where a family member passes away and their loved ones are fighting about what should happen to their property. While that’s a bit of an oversimplification, it does describe most of our estate and trust litigation cases. Most of the time, the people embroiled in conflict are family members. Seeing the toll that family strife takes on my clients, I often think about what could have been done to prevent the mess in the first place. No one really wants to think about what will happen when they die, but with some foresight and careful planning, many estate and trust disputes can be avoided. Here are three tips to consider that could help prevent family conflict after you’re gone. HIRE A LAWYER TO PREPARE YOUR ESTATE PLAN. I cannot stress this enough. Even if you think you know exactly how you want your property to be divided upon your death, it is absolutely necessary to hire an estate planning attorney to properly put your wishes into writing. One of the most common issues with wills prepared by people who are not lawyers is that they often contain imprecise, ambiguous, or contradictory terms. Sometimes, words can mean more than one thing. Have you ever said

something to someone, sure that they would understand exactly what you mean, but they interpret what you said to mean something completely different than what you intended? Of course. We all have. Now, imagine that happening when you aren’t around anymore to explain yourself. You thought you were crystal clear, but your heirs interpret what you said in a different way. What are they going to do? Most likely, they’ll have to hire someone like me to go to court and have a judge decide what your will means. An experienced estate planning attorney knows how to carefully draft wills and trust documents to avoid imprecise or ambiguous language. Don’t go it alone. Hire a lawyer and make sure your estate planning documents are prepared the right way.

KEEP EVERYONE IN THE LOOP. One of the most common stories we hear from prospective clients involves an unwelcome surprise. A family member passed away. The will was easily located. When the prospective client started reading it, however, they learned that their loved one did something unexpected with their property. These situations frequently arise when someone changes their estate plan late in life without letting all their loved ones know. These situations can lead to someone feeling like they got the short end of the stick. When that happens, litigation often ensues. It can be difficult to have conversations with your loved ones about your estate plan when you know they might be disappointed

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