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How to Write a Will That’s Contest-Proof

The purpose of a will is to transfer your assets upon your death to the people or entities you want to receive them. But how effectively this is accomplished depends in large part on carefully expressing your intentions and instructions in these documents, as well as making sure they comply with applicable state law. In estate planning, you should make efforts to guard your will against court challenges by discontented heirs or other interested parties

Typical challenges to a will are that the testator (the maker of the will) lacked mental competency or was subject to fraud or undue influence. Other challenges may assert that the will was forged or that it was superseded by another will that the testator made later. Still another ground is that the will was improperly executed or attested.

While you cannot anticipate all possible challenges, here are some positive steps you can take to make your Arizona will contest-proof:

  • Clarify the nature of the document — The will should make clear that you intend it to be your one and only “last will and testament” and that it revokes any and all prior wills that may have been made.
  • Make sure the will is clear — No provisions should be ambiguous or self-contradictory. Also, address contingencies, such as what happens if a specified beneficiary dies or is unable to take possession of their estate share for any reason. 
  • Include a no-contest clause — This states that any beneficiary who contests the will forfeits any right to the property bequested. In Arizona, such a clause is enforceable only as to non-meritorious challenges to a will. If the challenger has probable cause, they can escape the clause’s penalty. However, if the clause is precisely drafted, a challenger might have to establish probable cause for every claim raised. If just one claims fails to meet that standard, the challenger might forfeit all their rights under the will.
  • Make sure the will is executed properly — A will must be signed by the testator and by two witnesses. Those witnesses must sign in the presence of the testator and of each other and attest that they saw the testator sign and that he or she informed them of the nature of the document. Use disinterested witnesses, not people who are beneficiaries under the will.

An experienced Arizona estate planning attorney can make sure your will is drafted clearly in accordance with your intentions and that it was executed in conformity with state law.

Jeffrey P. Hall, PLLC in Chandler, Arizona assists clients throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area with all aspects of preparing wills and trusts. To schedule a consultation, call 480-409-5174 or contact us online