"An article by the US News and World Report gives “8 Tips to Avoid Nasty Estate Surprises.” I agree with most of the points, and add my critique after each tip below:
1. Get a good lawyer. I would add that your lawyer should concentrate exclusively in this area.
2. Pick the right executor and trustees. The right trustee will be solid and will react neutrally to avoid disputes over the estate’s property.
3. Talk about it now. This seems obvious, but most people will not let their intentions be known ahead of time. Unfair surprise is one surefire way to start a contest.
4. Know state laws. In California, as the Tax Professor adds, probate can be avoided entirely through the use of a trust.
5. Make your intentions known early and often. Making repeated modifications to the will or trust will make it harder to invalidate later.
6. Make sure title to your assets is clear. Circumventing the estate distribution by retitling assets later in life is another way to encourage litigation.
7. Consider including a “no contest” clause. Then give the beneficiary an amount that they would rather not sacrifice if they lost the contest.
8. Don’t try to manage your estate from the grave. Although I am not sure that I entirely agree with this one, in theory giving discretion to your beneficiaries may stop them from fighting over items to which they are personally attached. I agree that not every item need be listed in the instrument, but sometimes a person who writes a will or trust can avoid disputes ahead of time by simply making the right decision."
Whevener your estate ends up in litigation, only the lawyers win. A good lawyer can help make sure youre state doesn’t turn into a modren day Jaryndyce v. Jarndyce.