Although estate planning is crucial, it’s a legal task most Americans would rather not partake. According to a poll conducted recently, six in ten Americans don’t have a will, and the four in ten who do, are mostly individuals over 55! However, even those who do have a will, do not always have the last word on what should happen to their assets when the inevitable happens. This is in large part due to the mistakes they make when drafting one. With the right professional help, such mistakes are avoidable. That is why discussed herein are some of the mistakes you can avoid in your will by consulting a lawyer first.
Planning Only for Death
While your will is meant to protect the interest of your loved ones when you pass away, it can also take care of you when you’re still alive. For instance, it may show how you wish to be cared for in the event of incapacitation, maybe, due to an accident, or a health-related cause such as a stroke.
In that light, don’t just plan for death, but also life while writing you will. The best way to do this is by ensuring you sign documents such as an Advanced Medical Directive or the lasting power of attorney(LPA) when you draft your will.
The Advanced medical directive gives your doctors or medical personnel instructions on what to do when a particular incident occurs. For instance, through this document, you may give your doctors the green light to carry out mercy killing in case you go into a coma for a particular period. The LPA, on the other hand, gives your attorney the power to act on your behalf in the event you lose your cognitive abilities.
As an average Joe, you may not know about such documents, and that’s how you end up planning only for death. This is a mistake you can avoid by consulting an attorney first.
Using Ambiguous Language in Your Will
A vaguely written will can easily confuse and even leave your estate exposed to intestacy. For instance, simply stating: “I hereby bequeath my estate to my wife and children” is ambiguous. Why? Well, what if you had other children outside your marriage? They could easily challenge your will in court and get a share of your estate. Even if you had only one wife, be sure to include her name specifically, so you don’t create room for someone else claiming they were your wife.
Similarly, simply writing, “I bestow all my cash to my son, John Doe,” can have your will challenged because you didn’t specify the money you’re referring to. For instance, is it the money that was in your wallet? Or is it the amount in your savings account? Be as precise as possible with your words in the will. A lawyer will help ensure you are precise by helping you draft one.
Choosing the Wrong Witnesses
For a will to be valid, it must be signed in the presence of at least two individuals who are 18 and over and are not beneficiaries or spouses to someone who is a beneficiary of the will. With that said, another common mistake that most people make while drafting the will is including wrong witnesses.
For instance, having any of your beneficiaries as witnesses when you draft your will could have them disinherited if the other heirs choose to challenge the will. Sure, there’s a legal way to resolve this, but it’s a time and money-consuming process that can be avoided by consulting an experienced lawyer first.
See Also: What is Flexible Savings?
Failing to Update
As noted earlier, writing a will is an unpleasant task for most Americans. So, if you’ve already drafted one, you probably want nothing to do with it again. However, it’s a good idea to always review and update it. Why? Well, circumstances change. For instance, you may get divorced, come into a lot of money, or get additional assets you’d not included in the will.
Alternatively, the lives of your beneficiaries may change; for instance, one of your beneficiaries may die, another one may get divorced, or become disabled.
Review and update at least every three to five years. Having a trusted attorney by your side the first time you write your will is beneficial because he/she will tell you all you need to know about wills and estate planning.
Consult an Experienced New York Attorney
If you’re like most Americans, you probably want nothing to do with will writing and estate planning. Maybe it’s because you find end-life planning depressing or scary. But life is pretty unpredictable, and drafting a will is the easiest way to ensure your loved ones have one less thing to stress about in the event of your death. However, don’t just write one, ensure you consult your attorney first so that you can avoid the mistakes outlined above. This way, your last word, and wishes are respected when you’re gone.