Creating a will is a good thing. It’s amazing in this day and age how many people still fail to create a will (including many wealthy, educated people), leaving their estate in chaos, so, if you have a created a will, you are already one step ahead millions of other adults. But there are avoidable mistakes people commonly make which create massive headaches, arguments, and even litigation for their survivors.
While you might assume that your family members and loved ones will calmly and rationally sort any issues out once you are gone, check the docket of any probate court to see an endless stream of family members in battle against one another, wasting valuable assets on legal fees and causing family rifts that can last a generation or more.
Consider this list of avoidable mistakes only the start, however, as you should work with an estate planning attorney to cover your bases now so future generations are not left with intractable disputes and concerns.
Not Putting Promised Gifts in the Will
Did you tell your granddaughter that you planned to give her a cherished piece of jewelry or family heirloom? Even if you said this every Christmas in the presence of every family member, if you did not actually put this in the will, then the property will likely not go to her, and you will be putting family members in the awkward position of having to sort this out.
Making Handwritten Changes to the Will
It is completely normal and quite common for a person to want to change their will as new people and property both come into and exit their lives. But, in most cases, you cannot simply take a pen to your will to affect those changes.
Either you will have to create a whole new will or a codicil, which must be done with legal formalities in order to be effective.
Forgetting to Add or Delete People From the Will
Following from the last point, most people who have a will for decades will find that people will come into their life who they want to benefit, such as new family members and friends. Similarly, others may die or simply not be a part of their life anymore. You should periodically reassess your will to make sure it reflects the people that you would like to provide for after your passing.
Not Accounting for Later Acquired Property
Of course, simply identifying the persons you want to benefit is only part of updating your will. Your assets will undoubtedly change as the years pass. You can work with an estate planning attorney to create a language which will account for later acquired property, and you can also update your will as new property is acquired (and as other property is used, lost, sold, gifted, etc.).
Not Specifying Property Clearly in the Will
Another common error is to fail to specify the property in your will. If you gift “my ring” to your daughter, that may leave room for arguments down the road over which ring was intended, even if your daughter knows exactly what ring is being referenced, as others may take advantage of this ambiguity to their own benefit.
Update Your Will With a Pasadena Estate Planning Attorney
Estate planning and probate attorney Christopher B. Johnson, located in Pasadena, California, has years of experience in all aspects of estate planning, and works with clients from all walks of life to create estate planning tools that reflect their needs and those of their beneficiaries. To request an immediate consultation, contact him today at (877) 755-9178.