07 March 2022

Avoid These Common Mistakes When Preparing a Will

Submitted by Joshua Maraney
Avoid These Common Mistakes When Preparing a Will

You’ve thought about starting your will but haven’t yet. Or maybe you’re in the middle of writing one and need a little guidance to avoid some common mistakes that could cause major problems for your loved ones when you pass away. Here are some common mistakes people make when preparing their wills.

Not Making a Will at All

The biggest mistake people make is not having a will prepared. Without a will, the state has no say in where your money and assets go after you die. Your spouse may get it all, or maybe your kids have to fight over every penny with an ex- or even some random stranger. You can avoid this by just taking a few moments to have a will drawn up.

Not Discussing the Will With Your Family

You may know exactly who you want your money and assets to go to after you pass, but what about your spouse? And kids? And ex-spouse? You should write down on paper where you want your assets to go and give a copy of this list to your executor so they know where things need to go. You should also discuss your wishes with family members and have them sign a form that states they agree to follow through with what you requested. This will avoid any disagreements post-death, which nobody wants.

Creating an Outdated Will

Your will might have sufficient information and make sense now, but what happens if your family situation changes? What about the fact that you added your kids and removed your ex-spouse with no problem before, but now things are different? Or maybe you’ve since moved to a different province and don’t know how things will be divided up if this happens. You need to make sure you review your will every once in a while to make sure it still makes sense.

Leaving Out Key Details About Assets

If you put everything down on paper, there is no doubt about what should happen with assets after you pass away. It’s not enough to just name someone as the beneficiary of your belongings; you also need to make sure you include information about what your assets are, where they are located, who holds them in safekeeping if there is no beneficiary at the time of your passing, etc. It’s also important to make sure you leave instructions for paying off debts after death.

Not Having a Trust With Your Will

It might be stretching it a bit to call this a mistake, but you should consider setting up a trust with your will. The trust holds money or other assets until an appointed time when they are handed over to the person listed as the beneficiary on your will. This way, if anything happens to them before receiving their inheritance, it goes back into your estate and is handled by the executor.

Creating a Second, Similar Will

Chances are if you made a will before and nothing changed, your loved ones know exactly what to expect post-death. If this sounds like you, don’t waste time creating a second or similar will – it’s not going to accomplish anything. You should just update your previous will instead of re-drawing it.

Believing Everything Will be Fine Post-Death

It’s always a good idea to have a will, but this doesn’t mean that everything will go according to plan. You might get sick or hurt before your next review of the document, or you could lose some family members in another way after years of not speaking with them. You just never know. Because of this, you should have a safety net put in place to ensure your wishes are carried out or that someone is there to handle matters for you if you are incapacitated when the time comes.

Not Keeping Your Will with Documents in the Event of Your Death

You don’t need to keep your will on you at all times, but your executor must have access to it when the time comes. This means keeping a copy with documents like your birth certificate and passport (and any other relevant information) in an envelope labeled “Wills”. If you want to take a more active role, consider adding a copy to your safety deposit box.

Making Changes Yourself

Your will is going to be incredibly important when the time comes, so you need to make sure it’s as accurate as possible. Rather than making changes yourself, use an updated version of the document so that your executor doesn’t have to deal with any unnecessary confusion.

Making Changes in Front of Witnesses

You can always ask a trusted friend or family member to witness your will, but you need to make sure they don’t play a part in making changes later on. If you want someone involved, give them the responsibility of executing the change or drawing up a new document altogether.

Not Using Your Will for Estate Distribution After Death

If you don’t have a will, your assets are distributed according to the law of intestacy after death. The government gets first dibs on anything that isn’t left to your spouse or children, then it goes down the family tree with immediate relatives getting their share before distant ones.

Having an Outdated Will with Old Information

Often the biggest mistake people make when creating a will is using outdated information so that it’s no longer relevant once signed. For example, if you have children in your life but decide to leave your assets to someone else in the document, this needs to be updated to prevent any confusion after death.

Leaving Assets to Minors

You might not have much choice when it comes to who receives your assets after death, but this doesn’t mean you can’t choose how they are handled until the beneficiaries come of age. If you want the money held in trust until then, you need to ensure this is included in your will.

Being Unclear About What you Want Post-Death

It’s a good idea to talk with your loved ones about what they expect from your estate after death, but you must make it clear in the document if you want specific items to go to different people. For example, you might be adamant that one child gets your car while the other receives your house. If you don’t, your executor might distribute them according to their own will.

Having a Trust Handled by Someone You Don’t Trust

Your estate trustee has a lot of power over the distribution of your assets and should be someone you trust implicitly. If not, consider appointing multiple trustees or choosing an alternate route altogether. This could mean a bank or a legal firm entirely but think carefully before making a final decision.

Choosing an Incapable Trustee

While your trustee needs to have some knowledge of how trusts work, they must also be capable of carrying out the responsibilities that come with them. For example, if you choose a family member who can’t handle disagreements with other beneficiaries, the result could be legal battles that distract everyone from your assets.

Using Your Will as a Way to Prevent Family Members From Getting Along

You might not like your family very much, but you must consider them when making changes to your will. If you leave all of your assets to one person and leave everyone else with nothing, there could be serious consequences after death. Your executor should always try and mediate any disputes before things get out of hand.

Forgetting to Include a Deathbed Addition

Your will should also include a deathbed addition, which is a separate document executed at the time of death. This can be a simple note attached to the main document that says it’s your last will, or something more formal if you have doubts about the validity of your current version.

Being Incorrect With the Distribution of Assets

Your last will should be precise about who gets what, especially if your family or friends are involved. Otherwise, you need to choose a legal route that goes through your executor and ensures everything is divided according to your wishes after death.

Giving an Inaccurate Description of Your Assets

You need to be very accurate when detailing your assets in your will, otherwise, it could lead to arguments between family members or present challenges in determining their value. This information is also needed in the deathbed addition so that everything is documented properly at the time of death.

Skipping out on an Executor Altogether

Your executor doesn’t just distribute your assets after death; they also ensure the transition process goes smoothly and makes decisions on your behalf. If you don’t name one in your will, the courts will appoint someone for you and this might not be who you would choose.

Forgetting to Include a Codicil

You might come across problems with your will when making changes over time, which is why you need to include a codicil. This simply attaches or detaches pages from the main document depending on your wishes at the given time. It’s always best to consult with a lawyer before making changes though.

Not Including a Lawyer in the Process

You can technically draft your own will, but you must consult with an attorney before signing it. They’ll ensure there aren’t any loopholes or inconsistencies that could be used against you when making changes over time. Otherwise, someone could challenge the validity of your last will after death.

Illegally Drafting Your Will

While you do have the right to make your will however you like, it must also conform with state laws. If not, there could be serious consequences after death, especially if your estate runs into legal problems afterwards. Be careful when choosing how to change your testament over time.

Signing Your Will in Front of Unqualified Witnesses

Your will must be signed in front of two people who aren’t included as beneficiaries. They can be anyone you trust, but they’re not allowed to have any direct benefits from your death. This is an important part of the process that ensures everything runs smoothly after death.

Not Getting Your Will Notarised

Your will should always be notarized, meaning it’s been approved by a third party after you’ve signed it. This is one of the final steps in the process and prevents any problems from occurring afterwards. Make sure you choose a reliable person to perform this task after completion.

Trying to Avoid Taxes in Your Will

Every state has its tax laws when it comes to property distribution. If you attempt to avoid them in your will, the courts might not allow your wishes after death and could distribute everything how they see fit afterwards. You should always consult with a lawyer before making any changes.

Including Too Much Information

Your will should include just the basics of your wishes after death, including who gets what and where everything goes. You don’t need to go into too much detail because it could lead to conflicts between family members or friends if they feel you favour one person over another. Keep things simple and concise to avoid potential problems after death.

Not Including a Date

You need to date your will after signing it or today’s date won’t be included. This is important because the courts want to know when you created it and how up to date all of your information is before making decisions. Try not to forget this crucial detail, as it could lead to problems later on.

Get a Free Will Drafted Today!

When it comes to preparing a will, there are a few common mistakes that people make. By avoiding these mistakes, you can help ensure that your loved ones are taken care of after you’re gone. Capital Legacy is here to help. We offer free will drafting services to our clients, and we have years of experience in helping families through the estate planning process. If you’re ready to start planning for the future, contact us today and let us help you get started on the right foot.

This article was first published at https://www.capitallegacy.co.za/avoid-these-common-mistakes-when-preparing-a-will/

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