A will is a legal document which states what is to happen with your property after you pass away. It outlines where money and possessions are to go, as well as who the executor of your estate is going to be. As with any other legal matter, every case needs to be approached individually in order to fully ensure everything is covered. That being said, there are some common mistakes to avoid when writing your will, in order to make sure everything goes the way you want it to.
1. Not Learning About Wills
Because wills are a common feature in a lot of movies, and TV shows, and have become a part of the regular vocabulary, sometimes people don’t really take the time to really think about what a will is. Just like every other legal matter you might encounter, it’s important to learn more on wills as well in order to make sure yours will be set up the way you want it. For example, there are different types of wills – a simple will, a living will, a testamentary trust will, and a joint will. Depending on your personal circumstances, one type might suit you better than another. And since it is a legal document, there are some formalities that need to be adhered to in order for the will to be considered valid.
2. Not Knowing About State Laws
Although some states will allow you to craft your own will, others have very specific rules about what needs to be in it in order for it to stand up legally. While you can always look up your state laws and read through them, finding a good lawyer to help you understand the laws surrounding this matter is always a safe bet. An attorney can even help you draft your will, so you know that everything is going to be just the way you want it to be. Because you’ll have the key legal aspects not only explained to you, but in this case – you’ll even have them written down, you will have a good base for what your final will is going to look like. You can add to the will later, but getting an attorney involved will make sure you follow the right procedures from the get-go. Of course, once you settle on what your will is going to look like, you need to follow the proper procedures to make it official as well.
3. Not Naming Your Executor
Your executor is the person or persons that will be in charge of managing your estate after you pass away. For instance, they’re going to distribute money and possessions amongst those individuals who are mentioned in your will. So, it’s important to name an executor and to find out whether they will be able to fulfill this role. If you don’t name an executor, the court can appoint someone for you – which is not exactly what most people want. So, as you’re drafting your will, it’s important to know who is going to manage your estate so that you can include them in the will. Some people want their attorney to be the executor, while others prefer a more personal approach and choose a friend or a family member. In any case, it’s important that you choose a person you trust and who you can rely on.
4. Not Thinking About How It Looks
Let’s say that you have two children. One has a high-paying job and has their own home, while the other doesn’t get paid as much and is still renting a place. As a parent, you might be inclined to leave your home to the second child because they don’t have their living situation settled, while your other child already has a home and needs nothing more. While this may be a rational thing to do, you need to keep in mind that your will is only going to take effect after you’re gone – which means during a very hard time for your loved ones. By making a decision like this with no further explanation, it might seem like you prefer one child over the other. Of course, you are free to do with your belongings as you please, and you should do so. However, writing a letter that will accompany the will, and perhaps charging your will executor with reading it to your family member first, could go a long way when it comes to making your motivations clear. Another thing to keep in mind is that disproportionate inheritance can sometimes breed resentment amongst family members, so it’s crucial that you really think through your decisions when it comes to this. Another option would be to write a separate letter for each family member included in your will as a way to let them know how much you care for them and how much you value the relationship you have.
5. Leaving It For Later
A lot of people tend to delay writing their will – mostly because they think they have enough time and don’t want to think of such depressing matters now. While it’s true that you can write it at pretty much any time, the sad reality is that sometimes inheritance matters can bring out the ugly side in people. It’s not unusual for wills that were written during someone’s golden years to be disputed due to claims of the person being mentally incapacitated, for example. If you want to make sure that your final wishes are fulfilled – and of course, if you want to avoid family spats after your death – it’s vital that you write the will at a time when you’re not only sound of mind, but while there can be no room to doubt that you know exactly what you were doing and why you were doing it.
6. Leaving Room For Interpretation
Because wills are not only legal documents but carry a lot of heavy emotions, it can’t always be easy to use the right language when writing one. However, phrasing things in a way that leaves room for interpretation could lead to confusion later on, and even some arguments. For instance, saying you want to leave your “favorite painting” to someone, as sentimental as it is, doesn’t really tell the person it’s being left to anything about that painting. Describing it in detail could only be helpful, especially if you have more than one favorite painting. The same goes for vague arrangements of asset distribution – instead of saying “I want everything I own to go to my children,” write down exactly what belongs to whom and try to be as clear as possible.
Writing a will is a way to make sure you’re taking care of your loved ones even after you’re gone. Whether you want to leave something to different family members, just your spouse, or even to a worthy cause of your choice, it’s important to keep these common mistakes in mind so that you can be sure your last wishes are executed the way you want them to be, and that they carry the meaning you want them to have.