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Five Mistakes Made When Preparing A Will Without An Estate Lawyer

Five Mistakes Made When Preparing A Will Without An Estate Lawyer

Five Mistakes Made When Preparing A Will Without An Estate Lawyer

Preparing a will is always a critical consideration when you’re planning your estate and hoping to provide for your heirs and loved ones after you die. Unfortunately, many people attempt to prepare this important document on their own or using some kind of inexpensive software that will generate a generic document that could end up being challenged by the court or rendered invalid. Hiring an estate lawyer to guide you through the complexities of the legal system and how they pertain to your case can protect you from these common errors.

Mistake 1: Using “Do It Yourself” Templates

Whether you buy a book, download the software, or use a standard template, preparing your will using a basic outline and then trying to “tweak” it until it fits your circumstances is a mistake. The vast range of statutes that apply to an estate can render most wills created without an attorney invalid. The more you have to change things to make it work, the more likely it is that the probate court won’t accept it.

Mistake 2: Illegal Or Improper Bequests

You may simply want to leave everything to your children. That’s a noble decision, but an estate lawyer knows that you can’t leave money or property to a minor child. Instead, you have to establish a trust until they are adults, at which time they can receive the proceeds. If you need to establish a trust, you’ll also have to choose an administrator for that trust, and then decide when and how you’ll want the proceeds distributed once the child reaches a certain age as an adult. Or you may not feel that your adult children are old enough to handle a large inheritance properly and choose to create a trust that doles out the inheritance over a long period of time. It can very quickly become complicated, but an estate attorney who is familiar with trusts can suggest the right plan for your family.

Mistake 3: Neglecting To Consider The Needs Of The Elderly Or Infirm

You’ll no doubt provide in some way for your children in your will, but what about your elderly parents or your uncle who is disabled? If you are currently providing some type of support for them or you are concerned that you may die before them and leave them in a financial bind, you need to outline a plan for their care in your will. While it’s nice to think that other family members or friends will take over those responsibilities out of the goodness of their hearts, you can’t rely on them. Any estate lawyer can tell you horror stories of heirs fighting over who “has” to take care of an ailing grandparent or squabbling over who has access to the money meant for their care. In these situations, establishing an appropriate trust is crucial for their well-being after you are gone.

Mistake 4: Not Updating It Regularly With An Estate Lawyer

If you ask your parents or grandparents if they have a will prepared, they may say with confidence, “Oh yes, we did that years ago.” Unfortunately, a document prepared 15 or 20 years ago (or more!) may not be worth the paper it’s printed on. Since that time, children and grandchildren have been born, friends have fallen by the wayside, names have changed due to marriage, adoption or divorce, and loved ones may have passed away. If you haven’t updated your own will recently, talk to an estate lawyer who can review the current document and advise you on changes that need to be made.

Mistake 5: Not Disposing Of All Your Assets

Everything you own needs to be clearly disposed of in writing in order to minimize arguments between heirs. If you leave your house to one child but neglect to say that your jewelry should go to another child, a fight could erupt between siblings. One may say the jewelry was part of the home’s content, even if they know you intended your other child to get the jewelry. Don’t rely on good faith and family affection. A will may bring out the best in people, but it can also bring out the worse.

Preparing this important document is only the first step in your estate planning. An estate lawyer is an invaluable asset in helping you to prepare a will that can stand up in court and minimize misunderstandings or hurt feelings between heirs.