You’ve likely heard of the importance of early planning when it comes to writing your will, putting into place various powers of attorneys and other general estate planning tasks. The reason many elder law and estate planning lawyers encourage early planning is because of the many times they’ve witnessed families torn apart when one family member feels he was slighted. The argument that is sometime used includes, “But my mother was not of sane mind.” If there’s any question at all about a person’s mental capacity when the documents were prepared, there’s a good chance the will and other legal documents can be contested.
Sane Mind Requirements
Along with the need to leave nothing open to interpretation, a testator (the one who is creating his will) must also be at least 18 years old. If he’s married, the age requirement is void. Any kind of “constraint or undue influence” is another potential problem that can land a family in a courtroom. There must also be witnesses who can, if required, testify of the testator’s mindset.
So what happens if the testator knows he’s of sound mind, records the signing of the documents and yet knows there’s going to be someone with hurt feelings who will certainly contest the will? No contest clauses have worked in the past to limit, or even completely eliminate, the challenger’s inheritance. It’s a bold step to take, but for some families, a challenge is almost expected.
Sam Tamposi Estate
In fact, there’s a case in New Hampshire that was recently in the news. The Sam Tamposi estate is considerable and for the testator, he knew he had a daughter who would surely try to force the court to undo what he had put into place. His solution was the no contest clause. It serves as a deterrent in most instances, but not for Betty Tamposi. She feels she was slighted and that her father left the lion’s share of his impressive state to her brothers just to wreak havoc in her life. She risks being disinherited, but already at least two lower courts have ruled against her. She continues to appeal.
Now’s not the Time to Cut Corners
If someone is going to the trouble to put into place a contest clause, the last thing he should do is download a generic form from the internet. These documents, when they’re included, are an integral part of the overall estate planning effort. The smallest mistake could lead to a judge tossing it out, clearing the way for any heirs to sue your estate. A qualified estate planning lawyer is a sound investment, especially considering how affordable the process truly is. You can be sure that it’s both time and money well spent, especially if a generic form is full of holes.
If you’d like to learn more about no contest clauses or the wills they accompany, contact our office today. We can help protect what you’ve worked to accomplish and ensure your final wishes don’t end up in a courtroom being argued by two people who are most likely your family members.