A thorough and effective estate plan may encompass one or more of a number of legal documents. Wills, trusts and powers of attorney can all play a pivotal role in the protection of an estate's value and the distribution of its assets. Although a well thought out estate plan can be ironclad, even seemingly minor errors can have tremendously large ramifications. This is why it is often wise to have the assistance of a skilled estate planning attorney when dealing with these matters.
For example, an improperly executed will may be deemed invalid. This can leave the distribution of estate assets subject to state laws, which may be contradictory to an individual's wishes. It can also set the stage for family contention and litigation that is drawn-out and costly. An attorney will know the common pitfalls related to the drafting and execution of a will, though, and how to avoid them.
So what are some ways that a will can be invalidated? One way is to claim that the person who created and signed the will lacked the capacity to do so. A will may be deemed invalid if it is shown that its creator was not of sound mind and did not fully appreciate or recognize the ramifications of what he or she was doing at the time. If the will was drafted under coercion, duress or undue influence, then it will later be deemed invalid. A will's signing must also be witnessed in accordance with state law. The terms of a will must also be clear enough to dictate which property should be distributed and to whom.
Many people utilize a will as the foundation for their estate plan. However, because of common misconceptions about the simplicity of these documents, many choose to create these documents on their own without legal counsel. This can be a big mistake that can jeopardize an individual's vision for his or her estate. Therefore, when considering these matters it is often best to work closely with a trusted legal advisor.