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Important precautions when writing a will

New York residents who are in the process of estate planning need to make sure that their wills express their wishes clearly and are drawn up correctly. This will ensure that the will is less likely to be vulnerable to court challenges.

Older adults should not put off the preparation of these documents. It is important that wills are made while an individual is healthy. One way that a will can be challenged is with the claim that an individual was mentally incompetent. An individual needs to understand who their relatives are and what their assets are. They also need to understand that in making the will, they are designating beneficiaries, and they should understand the overall plan for distribution of those assets.

A will can be disputed on grounds of incompetence using medical records. However, witnesses can also testify in favor of an individual's mental fitness despite the medical records.

Even if an individual's mental competence is not in dispute, a will may be challenged on the grounds that a family member who might have expected to receive an inheritance has been disinherited. For this reason, it is important to clearly state family members who are disinherited. This can be accomplished with a statement in the will that says no provisions have been made for that person.

The signing of a will should be witnessed, and witnesses must be unbiased. If witnesses have a conflict of interest, the will could be declared invalid. The witnesses should also be prepared to be called upon if necessary to testify that the individual was of sound mind.

Estate planning will not prevent someone from challenging a will. However, following these guidelines, as well as receiving help from an experienced lawyer, could help result in a will that is more likely to be upheld in court.

Source: The Motley Fool, "3 Reasons Your Will Won't Hold Up in Court", Dan Caplinger, June 28, 2014

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