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Estate planning to avoid family conflicts

Probate is not the dirty word that many Delaware residents envision it to be. People are encouraged to engage in estate planning in order to avoid going through the probate process, but the fact is that nearly every estate goes through some form of probate. How an individual structures his or her estate plan determines the remainder of the process, including whether it is designed to avoid family conflicts.

No matter how much some Delaware residents attempt to mend fences between family members, conflicts are going to happen. The trick is to eliminate -- or at least minimize -- the potential for conflict resulting from the probate of an estate. One method is to include a provision in the will, stating that anyone who contests its contents gives up the right to whatever inheritance was intended for that individual.

Another method is to provide explanations to family members regarding why an estate plan is structured the way that it is. This can be done in person for those who get along, or in writing for those who do not. Part of the reason that some people file will contests is because they are blindsided by the inheritance they receive -- or do not receive. This can lead to all kinds of allegations regarding the validity of the will that often unnecessarily diminish the assets of the estate.

In order to help ensure that any estate planning will stand up to the scrutiny of the court and prevent family conflicts, Delaware residents would benefit from having the documents drawn up by an attorney. Certain provisions are required in certain documents, and those documents need to be executed in a particular manner in order to be considered legal. Furthermore, an estate plan can be tailored to an individual's wishes, needs and family dynamics. Without sufficient knowledge of estate law, any efforts one makes alone could end up causing more harm in the end.

Source: U.S. News and World Report, "Will Your Heirs End Up in Probate Court?", Maryalene LaPonsie, Jan. 27, 2017

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