It's a life task that most don't want to put on their to-do list, yet incredibly necessary. Creating a will ensures that your wishes are carried out after your death. Although no one likes to think about dying, a will prevents your assets from getting caught up in lengthy probate proceedings in court, complicating the process for your loved ones.
Before you get started, here are five common mistakes people make when writing their will. Check out this list to avoid potential problems:
- Choosing the wrong person as executor. This is the person who will be in charge of ensuring your will is carried out as you intended. The job carries a lot of responsibility, so you'll want to choose carefully. Some people who want to avoid any conflict among family members, or maybe don't have a relative who is up for the job, hire a bank. The point is to think hard about the decision and do not choose lightly.
- Failing to be specific. If you have specific items you want to go to certain people, write that in the will. If your assets are not being divided evenly, explaining the reasons why can prevent conflict among family members after you are gone. Similarly, if there is one person who is not mentioned in the will, it is beneficial to explain why, experts say. Otherwise, they may wonder if they were simply forgotten.
- Keeping the will somewhere hard to find. So, you went to all this trouble of writing a will and expressing your wishes, but you didn't tell anyone where it was. That's not going to help.
- Failing to update. You've written a will and checked off this important item on your to-do list. But don't forget about it. Every few years, take a look and decide whether there is anything that should be changed.
- Invalid witnesses. Witnesses, ideally people who are likely to be around after you die, are needed to sign your will. The laws regarding who those witnesses can be and how many are needed vary in different states, but they must be at least 18 years old.
Yes, mistakes happen. But most are avoidable. Taking the important step of contacting an attorney to start the process is a good way to prevent these mistakes and others. To learn more about establishing a will that truly protects your wishes, talk to an experienced estate planning lawyer.