5 Mistakes Most People Make When Writing Their Wills
Putting your final wishes in writing is essential for ensuring that your wishes are carried out after your death and offering greater advice for the loved ones you leave behind.
The purpose is to offer total clarity about who you want to inherit your assets, reduce the expenses of the probate procedure, appoint someone you trust to manage the process, and maintain family unity.
However, many people make basic errors while writing their wills, which can complicate the procedure after they die. Here are some of the most common.
1. Not Doing One
Perhaps the most common mistake people make is not having a will. It’s estimated that only half of U.S. adults have one.
If you have minor children, or who are in college, or you own real estate, or you have other assets that you would like to pass on, you should absolutely have a will.
If you’re married, statutes in all states assume that your assets will pass on to your spouse. If you have minor children and you don’t have a plan on how you’d like your assets to be distributed after your death, a court could appoint someone else to oversee your assets.
2. Ignoring Beneficiaries
Most people take the time to choose their beneficiaries — who they want to inherit their assets.
But they often ignore the next step, which is to clearly state how you would like your assets to be distributed — through probate, through a trust, or by stipulating specific bequests.
3. Not Putting Assets into a Living Trust
Putting your assets into a trust is a good idea if you want to avoid probate, have minor children, or own real estate.
A living trust is a separate legal entity from you — just like a corporation — that holds your assets. You can name yourself as the trustee of your own trust, meaning you retain the ability to control and manage your assets.
If you choose to put your assets into a living trust, you can use a “pour-over will,” a document that deals with assets that were not placed in the trust.
4. Not Considering Digital Assets
We live in a digital world. Most people have social media accounts; some have email accounts and online bank accounts.
If you have digital assets, you should have a will that addresses them. If you pass away without a will, your heirs will be faced with the potential for a long, difficult process to gain access to your digital accounts.
Also, many digital accounts are not just for personal use, but are used for business. You should consider naming someone you trust to oversee your digital assets or someone who will oversee them during the probate process.
5. Leaving Surprises
It’s critical to talk with friends and family about your plans, because bequests can have both positive and bad consequences for your heirs, especially if they reside in a senior living complex or get government assistance.
Unfortunately, a friend [or heir] may have their own assets set up so that they qualify for government assistance. A gift might jeopardize their eligibility for such benefits.
Planning ahead of time and completing your will and other legal and medical instructions can provide you and your family with peace of mind now and in the future.
All of these mistakes can be avoided if you take the time to do your homework.
If you want to avoid a long, drawn-out probate process, you want to make sure your assets are in a trust, you want to make sure your beneficiaries’ needs are met, and you want to make sure your executor — or person who will oversee the probate process — is someone you trust.
If you have any questions about estate planning, please contact an estate planning attorney in your area.
Estate Planning Lawyers Colorado provides succession and estate planning services that meet your family’s estate legal needs. Let us assist you with your succession planning. Contact us today to get started!