Making mistakes in a last will and testament is costly.
Everyone makes mistakes.
It is part of being human.
Learning lessons from experience allows people to avoid repeating these actions.
Sometimes there is not an opportunity for a second chance.
In these instances, it is wise to consider the experiences of others.
According to a recent The Huffington Post article titled “The Biggest Mistakes People Make In Their Wills, According To Estate Lawyers,” estate planning mishaps are often discovered after death when they cannot be changed.
One of the most significant estate planning problems people make?
Not creating a last will and testament.
If you are age 18 or older, you would likely benefit from a last will and testament.
This fundamental legal document allows you to designate guardians for your minor children, select an executor for your estate, and choose who will inherit your assets or how your debts will be paid when you die.
Failing to create a last will and testament means you forfeit the right to have a say in any of these areas.
Rather, the state will make these decisions according to intestacy laws.
Another last will and testament mistake is to designate two executors, if they do not have a history of getting along.
It is best to name only one executor when there is even a potential for disagreements.
You can name alternates in case the first individual is unable to serve in this role.
Although it is tempting to name all of your children to administer your estate, it can cause issues and slow down the process if there are disagreements.
If you do choose to have more than one executor, designate an odd rather than even number of individuals to avoid ties on decisions.
Another common mistake is believing only a last will and testament is necessary to avoid probate proceedings.
This is inaccurate.
A last will and testament does not remove assets from probate but directs assets through probate!
If you have accounts with beneficiary designations titled in your name alone and fail to designate a beneficiary, these assets will enter your estate by default and will then be distributed through probate.
If you had designated a beneficiary, the assets would have passed directly to the named individual rather than first spending a lengthy time tied up in the court.
Another of the common mistakes is believing people will not argue over certain items or heirlooms.
If you know a specific person desires a specific item with sentimental value, name this person as the recipient of this item.
Doing so cuts down on ambiguities and limits the potential for arguments over different interpretations.
As previously mentioned, it is not good to fail to create a last will and testament.
Neglecting to update your documents as life changes is also a problem.
Marriages, births, divorces, and deaths all warrant updates to an estate plan.
Even if your family has remained stable, it is important to review your plan every few years to account for changes in federal and estate tax law.
Finally, the one of the biggest mistakes is thinking you can create an estate plan on your own.
Working with an experienced estate planning attorney gives you the peace of mind knowing your documents were properly drafted and executed.
Although it is an upfront expense, it can save your family and estate significantly in future legal fees.
Reference: Huffington Post (March 8, 2022) “The Biggest Mistakes People Make in Their Wills, According to Estate Lawyers”