One of the most significant legal documents you will ever create is your final will and testament. It lets you designate where your property, guardianship, and debts should go after you die, as well as choose an executor to carry out your instructions.
But far too many Americans do not have the will to do so right now. Despite the epidemic, two out of every three people, according to a Caring.com study of 2,500 Americans in 2020, do not have a will. The main reasons given for not making one were procrastination and the assumption that they do not have enough assets to leave someone.
Aside from not writing a will at all, here are the most common mistakes estate planning attorneys see their clients make. Some responses were modified for brevity and clarity.
1. You appoint co-executives.
“You should surely have only one [executive].” One is preferred, with backup executors. Many testators believe that, in order to be fair, they should make all of their children accountable for handling the estate, which is a terrible notion. There are several arguments. You must get everyone to agree on something.
“Obviously, if you have a property and want to sell it as part of the estate assets, some children may argue, ‘No, it should stay in the family.'” I have no desire to sell. ‘How much should it be worth?’ Whether you should prepare the house before selling it There will be little conflicts that ultimately lead to family feuding, and there will be two sides and two factions. Not everyone gets along, and all of it comes out.
2. You feel that having a will is all you need to keep your loved ones out of court.
“The biggest fallacy is believing that a will alone would escape the probate process.” Probate is the legal process of administering a person’s estate when they die intestate, that is, without a will, or when they die with a will, that is, proving the will. Although a legal will can eventually determine where assets are dispersed, it is unlikely to avoid probate if assets are titled entirely in your name.
“If you have a will but an account (bank account, investment account, etc.) that does not have a beneficiary designation, i.e., it is entirely in your name, the assets will very certainly have to go through probate before being disbursed according to the terms of your will.”
“I recently had a client come to me with her father’s will, which specified that his fortune be divided equally among his three children.” She anticipated that the administration would be pretty simple.
3. You’re too vague about items with sentimental value.
Sometimes individuals say, ‘To all my children, an equal portion.’ However, this does not preclude children from saying, “I want to buy this property” or “I want this exact thing.”
“They say, ‘My kids will figure it out; they all get along.'” Relationships alter when individuals die. People may be changed by money. Your children, who got along so well when you were living, may not get along as well now that you are gone and there is no one to tell them who is right and who is wrong or to act as a mediator between them all.
“If you are too broad, it will be reliant on interpretation, and if various people understand it differently, you will be in trouble.” Let me give you an example. My grandmother had this beautiful artwork, and when she died, I thought to myself, “Oh my god, I adore this painting.” We didn’t quarrel over it, but my aunt said, “I really want that,” and one of my cousins also wanted it. I joked to my aunt, “Well, when you die, write it in your will that I receive this artwork.” Fortunately, we were able to work everything out. My aunt was the next in line, and she got it before the grandchildren.
4. You do not alter your will to reflect changes in your life.
“The most common error people make when creating wills or estate plans is failing to maintain such papers.” Certain life events, such as marriage, divorce, and childbirth, necessitate the updating of the paperwork. It is generally suggested that you review your estate plan every five to seven years.
“After it’s done, many people don’t think about it again.” When creating a will, take the time to amend it since various life events may alter your overall estate intentions.
5. You don’t think through whether the gift you leave someone will actually help them at the time of your passing.
“The most common mistake individuals make when writing a will or making an estate plan is doing nothing and having no paperwork at all.” Allowing papers to grow stale is the second most common mistake people make with them.
“The second major mistake we see people make is neglecting to fully examine the impact of their bequests.” Yes, bequeathing money to others is effective. However, those same bequests can also pose a slew of issues for the individual receiving the gift. When leaving money to children, take into account the child’s maturity and station in life. An 18-year-old may be a legal adult, but he or she is unlikely to be in a position to receive even a small inheritance.
6. You don’t leave instructions about where to find your will.
“I had a customer come in and say, ‘We have drafts that they made, but we don’t have documentation or proof that they really signed the agreements.'” People will know where to find your key documents if you are very explicit and detailed. It is less stressful for your loved ones.
“I’m in a discussion where estate planning attorneys are asking, ‘Did anyone prepare a will for this person?'” Is there an estate plan in place for this person? They are in this city and in this state. We’re looking for records that we believe exist but aren’t sure about. Then comes the process of determining whether or not they have a will.