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Age can be a factor that leads to probate litigation

Any of our Michigan readers who are familiar with previous posts here probably know by now that one of the key parts of estate planning that many experts recommend is to communicate the contents of the plan to relatives and others who may believe they will be part of the distribution of assets and property. Some people may find this hard, preferring instead to keep their wishes secret until the will is actually needed. But, of course, by that time it is too late to discuss why a planner made certain decisions, and the result may be something a solidly drafted will is designed to avoid - a will contest.

As a recent article pointed out, often a person will delay the drafting of a will and other estate planning documents until they have reached an advanced age. While some would say "better late than never," others would note that a plan that is approved and executed by a person of advanced age may bring a number of issues into question - mainly, did the person have the capacity to execute a will?

It is no secret that as many people age they begin to lose a bit of their mental edge. Some people are fortunate enough to avoid this problem and remain sharp throughout their lives, but it seems that more often than not a person of advanced age will have to deal with these issues. When this becomes a problem, and the person is trying to execute an estate plan after they have been diagnosed with, say, dementia, the relatives or others who may have an interest in the person's estate could argue that the estate planner lacked the capacity to execute these important documents - that they simply didn't know what they were doing.

Avoiding a will contest is one of the specific goals of most estate plans. Why? Because probate litigation takes time and costs money - two other issues an estate plan is designed to circumvent. A comprehensive estate plan seeks a quick and efficient distribution of assets, while preserving those assets to the greatest extent possible.

Source: ABC27 WTXL, "Did Mom Have Dementia When She Signed The Will?" John Pankauski, Nov. 15, 2013

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