People in California create an estate plan with the intention of ensuring that beneficiaries receive their intended inheritances. Unfortunately, unscrupulous family members might interfere. This can happen in the form of undue influence, convincing the person that the will or trust should be altered. It can also happen if a person destroys documents or takes some of the money from the estate that is not authorized.

There are things a person can do to prevent this from happening. A solid estate plan is critical. Most people have a will, even if the trust is their main estate planning document. It is important to appoint a trustworthy executor, and if a family member is not suitable, a professional such as an attorney can be appointed. The person may also want to create a financial power of attorney that appoints someone to make financial decisions if the person becomes incapacitated. Finally, the person may want to consider including a trust as part of the estate plan. Two co-trustees could be appointed to help reduce the likelihood of an abuse of power.

People may want to consider appointing two executors as well, making the second executor a professional. Communicating with family members about the estate plan may make challenges and conflict less likely. A disclosure agreement can require the executor to be transparent about finances.

In addition to the stress, litigation over an estate can be costly and time-consuming. An attorney may be able to assist if probate disputes do occur. One problem may arise if the person’s estate plan was not updated regularly. It is important to do this because tax law, assets and families change over time. For example, a person may get a divorce or have more children and forget to make changes to an estate plan.