As in many other states, wills in Georgia can be contested by the beneficiaries named on it, if they suspect there were fraudulent or improper conditions involved in the signing of the will. In some situations, a beneficiary may simply feel like he or she has been shorted his or her inheritance or given a smaller amount than expected, triggering him or her to initiate a will contest in an attempt to receive what he or she considers to be his or her fair share. There are ways to prevent your beneficiaries from contesting a will simply because they are unhappy with what they are getting.
How can a Will be Contested on Georgia?
Only beneficiaries who are named on the current or a past will have the right to a contest. Reasons for contesting a will may range from fraud to questioning the testator’s mental capacities at the time of signing. One may also claim the testator was under undue influence and being pressured to craft the will in a manner to benefit or exclude a certain family member.
Additionally, one may claim the will was not signed with the proper formalities required by law, such as witnesses. Whoever plans on initiating a will contest must be prepared to show enough evidence to support their claim, because it is assumed that if a testator took the time to make the will and signed it, then the will must be valid. Typically, these requirements are enough to stop beneficiaries from challenging the will simply because they are unhappy with their inheritance, but there are always exceptions.
What Can I Do to Prevent My Will from Being Challenged?
If you anticipate your family might end up fighting over your estate or if you have complicated relationships with some beneficiaries, it is best to start planning early and take steps to ensure your family knows that you have written a will and that you did so while you still have your mental capacities intact. If you wait, then someone might question that you may not have been mentally capable of creating your will.
You should talk to your family and communicate your decisions regarding who gets what and make it clear that you did so without being pressured by anyone. You may even video the will signing as further proof that there was no undue influence. Last, you may choose to include a no-contest clause in your will. This clause penalizes any beneficiary who files a lawsuit to challenge your will by excluding them from receiving any assets from your estate or reducing their inheritance by subtracting the amount spent on legal fees.
Is a Will or a Trust Better for Preventing Challenges?
While there are ways you can reduce the probability that your will may be contested, you need to assess your family dynamics and think about whether you might still be at risk of having your will challenged. It might be worth looking into the option of creating a living trust, which not only allows you to keep your estate out of probate but also lays down firm pre-determinations to how your assets will be divided among heirs. Trusts are more flexible than wills and can be updated according to your beneficiaries’ needs.
Your estate planning attorney can help you decide if a trust or a will is the better choice to help you discourage will contests and keep the peace in your family. Oren Ross & Associates has assisted many families with their estate plans and can help guide you in all your estate planning needs. Contact our office at (404) 436-1752.