Mountain Views News, Combined Edition Saturday, June 15, 2019

MVNews this week:  Page 12



Mountain Views-News Saturday, June 1, 2019 



A Weekly Religion Column by Rev. James Snyder


In the first part 
of this series, 
we discussed 
one of the most 
frequent causes 
for dispute over 
your estate 
plan. Here, we’ll 
look at another 
leading cause 
for dispute and 
offer strategies for its prevention. 

Contesting the validity of wills and trusts

The validity of your will and/or trust can be contested 
in court for a few different reasons. If such a contest is 
successful, the court declares your will or trust invalid, 
which effectively means the document(s) never existed in 
the first place. Obviously, this would likely be disastrous for 
everyone involved, especially your intended beneficiaries. 

However, just because someone disagrees with what he or 
she received in your will or trust doesn’t mean that person 
can contest it. Whether or not the individual agrees with 
the terms of your plan is irrelevant; it is your plan after 
all. Rather, he or she must prove that your plan is invalid 
(and should be thrown out) based on one or more of the 
following legal grounds:

 *The document was improperly executed (signed, 
witnessed, and/or notarized) as required by state law.

 * You did not have the necessary mental capacity at the 
time you created the document to understand what you 
were doing.

*Someone unduly influenced or coerced you into creating or 
changing the document.

*The document was procured by fraud.

Furthermore, only those individuals with “legal standing” 
can contest your will or trust. Just because someone was 
intimately involved in your life, even if they’re a blood 
relative, doesn’t automatically mean they can legally 
contest your plan. 

Those with the potential for legal standing generally 
fall into two categories: 1) Family members who would 
inherit, or inherit more, under state law if you never 
created the document. 2) Beneficiaries (family, friends, 
and charities) named or given a larger bequest in a 
previous version of the document.

Solution: There are times when family members might 
contest your will and/or trust over legitimate concerns, 
such as if they believe you were tricked or coerced 
into changing your plan by an unscrupulous caregiver. 
However, that’s not what I’m addressing here. 
Here, we’re looking at—and seeking to prevent—contests 
which are attempts by disgruntled family members and/
or would-be beneficiaries seeking to improve the benefit 
they received through your plan. We’re also seeking to 
prevent contests that are a result of disputes between 
members of blended families, particularly those that 
arise between spouses and children from a previous 

First off, working with an experienced lawyer is of 
paramount importance if you have one or more family 
members who are unhappy—or who may be unhappy—
with how they are treated in your plan. This need is 
especially critical if you’re seeking to disinherit or favor 
one part of your family over another. 

Some of the leading reasons for such unhappiness 
include having a plan that benefits some children more 
than others, as well as when your plan benefits friends, 
unmarried domestic partners, and/or other individuals 
instead of, or in addition to, your family. Conflict is also 
likely when you name a third-party trustee to manage 
an adult beneficiary’s inheritance because he or she is 
likely to be negatively affected by the sudden windfall of 

In these cases, it’s vital to make sure your plan is properly 
created and maintained to ensure these individuals will 
not have any legal ground to contest your will or trust. 
One way you can do this is to include clear language that 
you are making the choices laid out in your plan of your 
own free will, so no one will be able to challenge your 
wishes by claiming your incapacity or duress. 
Beyond having a sound plan in place, it’s also crucial that 
you clearly communicate your intentions to everyone 
affected by your will or trust while you’re still alive, 
rather than having them learn about it when you’re no 
longer around. Indeed, we often recommend holding a 
family meeting (which we can help facilitate) to go over 
everything with all impacted parties.

Outside of contests originated by disgruntled loved ones, 
the potential for your will or trust to cause dispute is 
significantly increased if you have a blended family. If you 
are in a second (or more) marriage, with children from a 
prior marriage, there’s an inherent risk of dispute because 
your children and spouse often have conflicting interests. 

To reduce the likelihood of dispute, it’s crucial that your 
plan contain clear and unambiguous terms spelling out 
the beneficiaries’ exact rights, along with the rights and 
responsibilities of executors and/or trustees. Such precise 
terms help ensure all parties know exactly what you 

If you have a blended family, it’s also essential that you 
meet with all affected parties while you’re still alive (and 
of sound mind) to clearly explain your wishes in person. 
Sharing your intentions and hopes for the future with your 
spouse and children is key to avoiding disagreements over 
your true wishes for them.

Prevent disputes before they happen

The best way to deal with estate planning disputes is to do 
everything possible to make sure they never occur in the 
first place. This means working with a trusted attorney to 
put planning strategies in place aimed at anticipating and 
avoiding common sources of conflict. Moreover, it means 
constantly reviewing and updating your plan to keep pace 
with your changing circumstances and family dynamics.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your 
wealth and defining your legacy,

A local attorney and father, Marc 
Garlett is on a mission to help 
parents protect what they love 
most. His office is located at 55 
Auburn Avenue, Sierra Madre, 
CA 91024. Schedule an

appointment to sit down and talk about ensuring a legacy 
of love and financial security for your family by calling 
626.355.4000 or visit for more 


The Gracious Mistress of 
the Parsonage and I were 
dining out at a very nice restaurant. We had 
been on the road for two days and were weary 
of travel. At least, I was.

Nothing I hate more on a vacation than travel. 
But this time it was not so bad because my wife 
was doing all the driving. She’s an excellent 
driver because she had the world’s best teacher. 
I admit that I was her teacher.

We were seated and began looking at the menu. 
Then my wife said, “You don’t take very many 
things seriously, do you?”

We both laughed, but I knew she was right. 
Life is too short to be serious about everything. 
I do not want to come to the last of my days 
and find I have 100 giggles left over. I want to 
giggle all the way to the end.

The waitress came, graciously took our order 
and then brought back the bread for us to begin 
our lunch.

I picked up the knife to cut some of the bread 
and I dropped it on my right forefinger. There 
was a little cut there and so I squeezed it to get 
as much blood out as I possibly could.

My wife looked at me shaking her head and 
said, “What in the world are you doing?”

At the time I had no idea what I was doing, I 
was just doing.

Then I saw the waitress heading for our table. 
Every once in a while I have a thought rattling 
around in my head. And so when she got to the 
table I said, “I cut myself and it hurts so much.”

She shook her head and said, “Your finger’s 
okay, I saw you using it as I was coming to your 

“But look at the blood,” I complained, “can I 
get a discount?”

Still shaking her head, she walked away from 
the table.

I think my wife thought I was just going to let it 
go, but when you have a good thing going, why 
not keep it going. I was going to play this to the 
very end. My philosophy is when a bad thing 
happens, try to find something good out of it.

I got my handkerchief out of my back pocket, 
made a little sling for my finger and attached it 
to my shirt. There I was with my finger in that 
little sling as though I had hurt it very badly.

As the waitress came to our table again she 
stopped, looked at my finger in the sling and 
burst out laughing. I said in such a dreary 
voice, “Does this qualify for a discount?”

I sat there with my bleeding finger in the little 
sling and the customers around me were 
laughing as they watched. Their laughter was 
worth what I was doing.

Was there any pain in my finger? Not at all. But 
I did have a drop of blood. That alone should 
count for something.

My wife looked at me, shook her head and 
said, “I can’t take you anywhere.”

I would not give up on my pursuit of a discount. 
After all, life is full of discounts if only 
you can find them. Believe me, I look for them.

“Don’t you know people are watching you?” 
My wife said as quietly as possible.

I snickered a smile in her direction and continued 
my “woe is me” attitude.

She knew I was not taking this seriously and 
she knew that I was going to milk this for everything 
I could get.

Eventually the waitress came back with our 
ticket and said, “When my manager heard 
your story he broke down laughing. Nobody 
has ever tried this in this restaurant before.”

I smiled; I like to hear things like that. Then 
she said something that really surprised me.

“The manager said that I could give you a 10% 
discount for your pain and suffering in our 

She handed me the ticket and there it was in 
black-and-white. “10% discount for pain and 

Several of the customers around me clapped 
and laughed at my success. Nothing is more 
important to me than making people laugh. 
Too much gloom and doom in our world today. 
Somebody needs to step up and turn on 
the laughter machine.

I took a picture of that ticket to make sure I 
would not forget that sometimes one person’s 
joke can equal a good discount.

As we began driving after lunch, both of us 
chuckled for quite a while.

I said to my wife, “Who in the world would 
have thought that would work?”

You never know what’s going to work until you 
try it. If it does not work, okay, move on to the 
next joke. 

People take things so seriously these days. 
Then there are those people who laugh at the 
wrong things. I need a balance in my life and I 
know that laughter is like medicine to the soul. 
It just depends what I am laughing at or who.

One of my favorite Bible passages is found 
in the book of Proverbs. Solomon wrote the 
Proverbs and is known as the wisest man that 
ever lived. He wrote, “A merry heart maketh 
a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the 
heart the spirit is broken” (Proverbs 15:13).

I have a responsibility to help stir up and give 
people a merry heart.

Dr. James L. Snyder, pastor of the Family of 
God Fellowship, lives with the Gracious Mistress 
of the Parsonage in Ocala, FL. Call him 
at 352-687-4240 or e-mail jamessnyder2@att.
net. The church web site is www.whatafellowship.

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