Legal Blog

The Weekly Scenario: How to Prevent Family Fights Over Your Will

Question: How can I prevent my family, who doesn’t get along very well, from fighting over my Will?

Answer: Beneficiaries who do not get along with each other or are accustomed to ‘lawyering up’ when they don’t get their way, will find a way to fight. The more there is to fight over, the greater the reason to fight. So whether the estate is large or small, or the beneficiaries get along great or horribly, here are some of my recommendations you can do to minimize the likelihood of an estate contest:

  1. Create your estate plan when you are healthy, of sound mind and free from undue influence. People who wait until they are ill to plan are often not in the right frame of mind. The planning becomes a burden and is that much more difficult to do. Better decisions are usually made with a clear mind and in advance of a decline in health. Moreover, when one’s health is not good, there is more likely to be a challenge that the testator was in the right frame of mind.
  2. Hire professionals who are independent and know your true intentions. It is often helpful to get independent advice from experts in the field as opposed to a “do it yourself” package.
  3.  If you do decide to treat beneficiaries differently, it is a good idea to explain the different or unequal treatment of beneficiaries. Better to clearly state your intentions than allow someone to guess after the fact!
  4.  Side letters that support the Will are good evidence of intent.

Comment: We tend to hear news stories about celebrity or other Will disputes. In a number of cases, these situations are avoidable by planning to make intentions clear and not open for interpretation.



As always, if you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact Steve Shane at or 301.575.0313.


Steve Shane Casual | 301.575.0313

Steve Shane provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts and charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.





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