If an individual has an estate plan, it will provide instructions on how they want their property to be managed and distributed when they pass away. Although many individuals think estate planning is for the elderly or wealthy, almost everyone can benefit from establishing an estate plan.

Documents that are necessary to create an estate plan include:

  • Document 1: The testator’s identifying information – This may include a driver’s license or Social Security card to show their identity.
  • Document 2: An inventory of their personal items – This includes personal items they want included in their estate plan, such as jewelry.
  • Document 3: An inventory of their financial accounts – This is necessary to identify which assets go to which beneficiaries.
  • Document 4: Documentation of real estate ownership – These documents show ownership so they can be distributed to beneficiaries.
  • Document 5: An inventory of stocks and securities, if applicable -This will allow for proper distribution of these assets.

Other document that is helpful:

  • Document 6: Any other assets the testator wants to distribute – This may include other types of valuables or family heirlooms.

How Will This Evidence Make My Estate Planning Case Stronger?

When an individual, called the testator, is planning their estate, they likely have specific desires for their property and whom they wish to receive it once they pass away. Having an estate plan in place is the best way to ensure this occurs.

The strongest estate plans and estate planning cases begin with the assistance of an attorney who can help their client gather evidence of estate health or financial planning. A lawyer will know how to draft a clear, valid, and enforceable will that will serve as the basis of the individual’s estate plan.

A well-established estate plan can help reduce the tax obligations of an individual’s loved ones as well as the need for proceedings in probate court. If an individual does not have an estate plan, their estate will be distributed according to the intestate succession laws of the state in which they reside.

Intestate succession laws vary by state. In addition, they often result in property distribution that the testator would not have desired.

Although estate planning is often associated with wills and trusts, there are also many other issues that may be covered by an individual’s estate plan. Examples of estate planning issues may include, but are not limited to:

  • How the individual wishes to receive medical treatment if they become incapacitated and cannot speak for themselves;
  • Whether the individual is an organ donor;
  • Who is authorized to make legal and financial decisions on the individual’s behalf, should they become incapacitated;
  • Who is authorized to care for the individual’s minor children should they become incapacitated, or when they die;
  • Who is authorized to take over the individual’s business interests; and
  • The individual’s preferred funeral arrangements in addition to any information regarding previously made plans such as a purchased burial plot or a prepaid funeral service.

Because these issues are all very important, it is essential for an individual to have an attorney draft their estate plan. This will help ensure that no ambiguous language is used that may cause a dispute to arise in the future, leading to years of issues between family members and loved ones.

It is important for a testator to review their estate plan periodically to ensure that there have not been any changes in the laws and that their asset inventory and beneficiaries are still accurate. For example, if one of the named beneficiaries passes away before the testator and the testator does not change their will, it may lead to a dispute after their passing regarding who should receive that property.

How to File Evidence in Court for an Estate Planning Case

Submitting evidence to court is very complex, no matter the type of case or courtroom. Although there are situations where individuals can represent themselves, it is always best to have a lawyer handle the case.

This is especially true in estate planning cases. The best evidence in an estate planning case is a well-drafted will and other estate planning documents.

If a testator has a clearly drafted, valid, and enforceable will, there will be little chance of issues arising after their passing. If, however, an individual attempts to handle these types of issues on their own, it may result in years of disputes between their family members and their property not being distributed as they wish.

In order to have a valid and enforceable will, it must meet certain criteria, including, but not limited to:

  • The testator had testamentary capacity;
  • The testator reached the age of majority for their state, generally eighteen years old;
  • The testator signed and dated their will; and
  • The actual document was labeled as a will, for example, “Last Will and Testament.”

Because a will contains instructions on how to distribute the testator’s property upon their death, it should also contain the following information:

  • A description of the property and estate of the decedent;
  • When the assets and property should be distributed; and
  • The names of each of the beneficiaries and what they should inherit.

An attorney will be familiar with these and any other requirements for the state and ensure they are included in the estate plan.

What If This Is Not Accepted by the Courts as Evidence?

If an individual is involved in a will dispute, they will be required to submit evidence to the court which, in some situations, may not be accepted. If the testator had a well-drafted and solid estate plan in place, it will likely be difficult to contest.

If, however, an individual sincerely believes there was an error, they can contest the will. It is important to have the assistance of an attorney during this process because it is often difficult to enter evidence contesting a will.

If an individual has evidence they believe supports their case, but it is not accepted by the court, their attorney will know the rules of evidence and whether any exceptions may apply that would allow the evidence to be admitted. In addition, an individual’s attorney will be able to advise them on multiple types of evidence they may be able to use to support their argument so that, in the event something is excluded, they can still continue with their case.

Can a Lawyer Help me Avoid Common Estate Planning Issues?

Yes, a lawyer can help avoid common estate planning issues, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Failing to list all property in the will or trust documents;
  • Failure to meet the state’s legal requirements, such as having the will properly witnessed and executed;
  • Listing invalid beneficiaries on the individual’s pension, benefits, life insurance policies, and similar items;
  • Naming an inappropriate or incapable executor, or estate administrator; and
  • Failing to account for potential emergencies or contingencies, for example, a prolonged illness or the death of a beneficiary.

If any of an individual’s estate planning measures are deemed invalid, their estate may be subject to expensive and lengthy probate court proceedings. In addition, their assets may not be distributed according to their wishes.

A lawyer can help avoid all of these issues and ensure an individual’s loved ones are cared for after they pass away.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me With My Evidence?

If you are interested in creating an estate plan, it is essential to consult with an estate lawyer. Your lawyer will know the state laws governing estate plans and will be able to help you create a solid and enforceable estate plan that will help your loved ones avoid any future disputes.

Your lawyer will help you organize your estate, address any of your questions, and determine what estate planning tools best suit your needs. Your lawyer can create a solid estate plan that will be the best evidence of your wishes when you pass away.