Wills are essential elements of estate planning. Without them, your spouse, children and other loved ones may not receive the inheritances you worked so hard to leave them. Since the court has little, if any, background on your family to go on, certain assets could be allotted to irresponsible parties who’ll ultimately squander them away. That being said, simply having a will in place isn’t always enough. Authorities in the legal and wealth management sectors recommend seeking professional intervention when planning your will. As countless people have already discovered, even the smallest omission or loophole could cause all those estate planning efforts to crumble around your family’s feet. Consider these six mistakes often made when writing a will before moving forward.
1) Being Too Vague
Details are essential when it comes to drafting a will. Even if all beneficiaries know exactly which assets you’re talking about, the law requires precision. You can’t simply refer to the house, the car and the savings account. Be specific in every aspect of the will. Give the address and date of purchase of house and its
surrounding property. Note whether certain assets on the property are part of the package. State the color, year, make and model of the car. Provide the name and address of the bank where your savings account can be found as well as the account number.
2) Forgetting to Make Updates
Wills are drawn up around our present-day lives. We never know what the future might hold or when the end might come. Far too many people have ended up leaving their assets to an ex- spouse rather than a current one or leaving their youngest child out of the mix altogether because they passed away before modifying their wills to match changing circumstances. Anytime an aspect of your life changes, have the will updated accordingly whether it be a divorce, the birth of a child, purchasing a new asset, opening another bank account or even realizing a certain beneficiary isn’t responsible enough to manage an inheritance. Do so
immediately. Staying on top of the latest developments will reduce the risk of dispute or unpleasant surprises when the time comes to put the will to use.
3) Taking the DIY Route
As is the case with virtually all legal documents, applications and other forms these days, will templates are readily available online. Several versions are available, many of them free, and they’re even broken down by state on some websites. These templates are as acceptable and as legally binding as those available through attorneys as long as they’re completed correctly. Unfortunately, in most cases, they’re prone to inaccuracies. Some don’t follow legal protocol as closely as they should. Other times, oversights stem from the person filling out the will. In all instances, templates are general guidelines and may not cover all situations.
If you choose to use a template, have an estate planning attorney go over it with a fine-tooth comb to ensure everything is in order. Otherwise, your estate planning measures could prove to be in vain.
4) Poor Choices in Executors
An executor is the person named to be in charge of your estate. This should be someone you trust wholeheartedly and who is fully capable of handling the task. Ideally, he or she should also be an adult who’s younger than you and a neutral third party with nothing vested in the situation. Keep in mind, the person you trust the most may not be equipped to take on this responsibility, and the one best suited to the job might not want it. Narrow your selection down to a short list of
qualified candidates and discuss the matter with each of them. Never appoint an executor simply assuming he or she is willing to accept the challenge.
Be sure the executor is fully informed of all your wishes. Should any modifications be made to your will, keep him or her apprised of the changes. In the event your relationship with the executor goes south or he or she meets with an untimely death, don’t forget to appoint a new one as soon as possible.
5) Not Planning for All the Possibilities
Any number of unexpected situations could arise over the course of a lifetime. You may be disabled in an accident or develop a terminal illness. You could be one of the 10 million people to be diagnosed with dementia each year. Countless people fail to make provisions in their wills for such eventualities. Chaos could ensue
as a result. Appoint a guardian for any minor children. Determine who will be in charge of your medical decisions if you’re not able to make them. If possible, set up a separate bank account to cover any insurance gaps, and be sure to specify this account and its purpose in your will. Covering this facet while you’re physically and mentally capable of doing so will take the burden off your family if your health takes a turn for the worse. It’ll also ensure your needs don’t go unheeded.
6) Putting off Estate Planning
All too often, we feel we have plenty of time to take care of life’s little details. This is one of the primary reasons 60 percent of Americans don’t have a will or any type of plan for the future. Life is full of twists and turns, and you have no way of knowing what’s around the next corner. Don’t put off the estate planning process simply because you’re young and healthy. Doing so could leave your family in the lurch if something happens to you unexpectedly. Take action now to give yourself and your loved ones the peace of mind of knowing you’re prepared.
In a Nutshell
Wills are meant to help ensure assets are distributed appropriately and families are taken care of when a loved one passes away. In many cases, they fall short. Cover all the essentials and enlist the help of a legal professional to guarantee yours is set to fulfill its intended purpose. This might seem like an intimidating task, but it’s well worth the time and effort in the end.