Glen Campbell Last Will and Testament Dispute Shows Importance of Transparent Estate Planning

Music legend Glen Campbell, who passed away last year after a lengthy and public bout with Alzheimer’s Disease, has been nominated posthumously for a Grammy award for his song, “Arkansas Farmboy.” But sadly he is in the news now for a very different reason: a family legal battle over his estate. A Nashville court hearing scheduled for February will address whether a 2006 Last Will and Testament left by Campbell is valid, in light of his mental capacity at the time, or whether a previous will is the lawful expression of his last wishes.

Sometimes, family disputes over a loved one’s estate plan are unavoidable. If you feel the need to leave out children, that can be especially controversial and hurtful. But with careful planning and open communication, the likelihood that your wishes will be clear and followed by the court can be increased, and the chances that your Will results in litigation can be minimized.

Here are five things you can do if you find yourself needing to leave family members, especially children, out of your will.

  1. Make sure you have a Tennessee wills attorney draft your will and oversee its signing/execution and provide guidance. Using an automated, or do-it-yourself will is dangerous at any time, but if your will is likely to surprise or upset family members by leaving them out, it is especially foolhardy. Online legal services might save you a few bucks now, but could cost your estate enormous sums in attorney’s fees in the long run. A Tennessee wills attorney can also make sure that your will (along with every other essential estate planning document) is properly signed, witnessed, and notarized according to state law. They can also help draft your will in a way that explicitly and effectively disinherits a family member if that is your true wish.
  2. Are you sure you want to do that? Sometimes, after hearing clients explain why they want to leave a child out of their will, I can offer other ways for them to achieve a similar outcome without needing to inflict that particular pain. Have you thought of all the other solutions besides leaving your child out of your will to address your concerns? An attorney can talk you through contingencies and offer potential solutions that you may not have considered.
  3. Communicate with your family and other professionals. Being transparent now can be the best antidote to the grief of a disinheritance. Often, parents do not feel comfortable alerting a family member to the fact that they are being written out of an estate plan. But accepting that confrontation now could save your family those problems later. It also allows you to fully explain your reasoning, and to let your loved ones know that you are making this decision thoughfully, with all of your faculties intact, as an honest expression of your intentions, and not at the behest of anyone else. You could also communicate with others your thought process so that they will be aware and could attest to your wishes and mental state.
  4. A No Contest clause in the will could also be used to lessen the chances that a family member will fight their inheritance in court. Such a clause would specify that if any beneficiary in the will challenges their inheritance they will lose the right to any inheritance.
  5. Express your wishes through beneficiary designations on your financial accounts. By naming a beneficiary on a retirement or other financial account, you remove that account from your estate, meaning it passes directly to that person, and does not go through probate, thus is not subject to a will challenge.

Please contact us today online or by calling 800.705.2121 to discuss your legal options.