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What action can you take now to avoid probate litigation?

If your estate ends up in probate litigation, you won't be around to be stressed by the events. Your loved ones, including your children or other direct heirs, could be stressed or negatively impacted by estate litigation, though. That's one reason many people take actions now on their estate.

Probably the most common and, many times, the simplest action you can take to minimize probate litigation for your heirs is ensuring you have a legally valid will on file. It's not enough to tell your heirs how you want your assets divided. In fact, your verbal word and nothing else could set heirs up for major disappointment when the courts follow state intestacy laws to divide your assets in lieu of a will.

It's also not enough to simply write down your wishes. A will has to be executed in a certain way -- which usually involves signing it in the presence of witnesses who also sign it -- for it to be considered legally valid. Working with a legal professional to draft and record your will is one of the best ways to ensure it will hold up in court and help reduce any future probate litigation.

Once you've drafted a will, executed it and filed it appropriately, talking to your heirs is also a good idea. By being as clear as possible about your wishes, you prepare heirs for the reading of the will. If the contents don't come as a shock, you reduce the chance that any of your potential heirs seek to have the will thrown out in court, and heirs who understand your reasons for certain asset division might not feel slighted or left out.

Source: WebMD, "Getting Your Affairs in Order," accessed June 24, 2016

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