Creating a last will and testament doesn’t have to be difficult, and many companies or products exist that can help you do this on your own without too much difficulty. While this is great in that it encourages people to undertake the task of planning for their estate, it also can lead to numerous mistakes, which can, in turn, lead to more headache and hassle for your loved ones. Here are seven common last will mistakes that you should be careful to avoid.
1. Choosing a Bad Executor/Personal Representative
The executor is an individual you designate to administer your estate and execute your will. This is a position that requires an immense amount of trust, so you should make sure you choose someone you know will act in your best interests and help you protect your loved ones. It’s also a good idea to discuss this responsibility with your chosen person beforehand so they understand and accept this responsibility.
2. Forgetting Assets
You must include everything you own in your will, as well as provisions for its distribution and what will happen in the event your chosen beneficiary cannot receive it. The easiest way to make sure nothing gets left out is to add anything you may acquire to your will, however, this isn’t always practical and it’s easy to skip something. Ask your attorney about including a “leftover” clause, which ensures any assets not specifically named are given to a beneficiary of your choice.
3. Forgetting Your Children
It’s never too early to create an estate plan, and all parents should have one regardless of their age or the age of their children. When creating your will, it’s absolutely critical that you make sure any minor children are cared for, including naming a trustworthy guardian for them in the event both parents pass away. You should also leave them a good amount of financial security to ensure they have what they need to live comfortably after your passing.
4. Not Being Detailed
The largest number of disputes arise because of a lack of clarity or detail that clearly indicates your last wishes and leaves nothing up to debate or questioning. If you are not detailed in your last will, your loved ones could face familial fighting, which will only extend the probate process out further and increase the expenses your loved ones will bear. It could also lead to your actual wishes not being executed because nobody knows what you actually meant or it was open to interpretation.
5. Using Legalese
Your will may be read by lawyers and in court, but that does not mean it needs to be in legalese for it to be effective. In fact, those who try to write their wills in this complex legal jargon often make mistakes that lead to your will being improperly executed and your best wishes not being respected. You’re much better off if you write your last will in plain and simple English.
6. Getting the Facts Wrong
When you write your will, you need to be detailed, but it’s also important that you get your details correct. Locations, descriptions, beneficiary relationships, and more should all be included in your will to eliminate as much gray area as possible. For example, if you want to leave something to your niece named Lucy, you should mention her as “my niece, Lucy [middle name] [last name].” This can leave little doubt as to who you are referring to, simply saying “my niece” or “Lucy” can leave gray area or confusion, especially if you have other nieces or people named Lucy as beneficiaries.
7. Not Using Codicils
When you wish to make a change to your will, you should create a codicil, which is a document which amends your will without needing to completely rewrite a new one. This is a quick and easy way to make minor changes, such as adding an important asset to your will or changing a beneficiary. Without codicils, your original last will is the one that will be executed, and any verbal or even written wishes will not be considered. Likewise, too many codicils can lead to confusion, and after a while, you may want to revisit and write an entirely new will to reflect everything cleanly and clearly.
If you need assistance drafting your last will, trust a Phoenix estate planning lawyer from Taylor & Lihn, PLLC to help you avoid some of these common mistakes and create a thorough and detailed estate plan. With nearly 30 years of combined, results-driven experience, we handle each case with the knowledge and professionalism you need to seek the best possible outcome to your case.
Schedule your initial case evaluation today! Call Taylor & Lihn, PLLC now at (602) 900-9860.