It’s easy to get caught up in misinformation and quite common to make mistakes when it comes to planning for and drafting your Will. Writing a Will can be both complicated and expensive. However, not having one increases the chances of a dispute arising after your death, which would create costly legal expenses for your estate. Another scenario that increases your chances of disputes is wanting all your children to be co-executors. It is best to have one decision-maker and eliminate all other conflicts of interest.
You might not realize it, but misinformation is also rampant when it comes to a Will’s planning. What are some of the biggest mistakes you should look out for? Let’s take a look.
Misconceptions About Your Will
When it comes to drafting your Will, not any lawyer will do. We recommend that you look for providers who fully understand your circumstance and routinely work with estate law clients. There are many pitfalls and unseen circumstances in estate planning, and if you’re not properly prepared, it could get ugly. Members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NEALA) and the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) specialize in elder law and offer nationwide directories for finding local providers.
It’s likely not a good idea to assign co-executors, either. Just because you have multiple heirs doesn’t mean they will agree, actually it increases the chance of disagreements. These disputes are not likely to be easily resolved. The most frequent suggestion is best to select one executor with alternates chosen should that person pass first or be incapable of the job.
Having a Will does not necessarily mean your estate avoids the probate court. If you do not designate a beneficiary on your accounts or Transfer On Death designations on your properties, it’s likely probate courts will get involved to allow for your executor to have access to these accounts and properties transferred out of your name. Never assume a Will is all you need.
Keeping Your Family in the Loop
Does your family know where your Will is stored? Who is in possession of it? Do they know what’s on it so they’re not surprised by it? If it’s in a safe deposit box, who can have access to it? Is there a copy in your files? Who is your lawyer? How can your family contact them?
By keeping your adult children and any loved ones apprised of the details about your Will, you’ll be able to fully communicate your desires before you pass away. Through your discussion, seek both acknowledgement and reassurances that what you’ve chosen will be followed. This reduces the fear that your loved ones will ignore your wishes after you’re gone.
An experienced attorney offered this guidance when evaluating your adult children for their roles in your estate plan. Take a good look at where they are now. Avoid the tendency to pigeonhole them. Parents frequently perceive heirs in their adolescent roles as “the studious one” or “the slacker” but these often no longer hold true into adulthood. Birth order on the family tree is also not a rule to follow. It is best not to assume your oldest child to be the best decision-maker. Now that they’re all adults, it could be that one is better than the other at decision-making or keeping finances, or being responsible. Avoid adopting gender norms where the men do the finances and the women take care of the emotional and physical caregiving. Take your adult children’s strengths into consideration when appointing them to manage your estate.
Whenever a life event happens, such as a marriage, a divorce, a birth, or a death, not only for you, but also for your heirs, always be mindful to update your legal documents to reflect the change accordingly. There is a myth that your spouse will automatically inherit everything you own. That is not true. Make sure beneficiaries are current and in place, have your current contact information available (such as current address and phone number), and never let your Will get “stale” or outdated.
A good rule of thumb is to do a self-audit of your current information once a year and update your legal documents as needed.
At Organized Instincts, our seasoned team of daily money managers can help you prepare your finances as you plan for the future of your estate. Schedule a free consultation today to hear how we can guide you through the process.