Common Mistakes Made When Drafting a Will

Apr 23, 2021 | Estate Planning, Trusts, Wills and Probate

Less than half of all Americans have a will to ensure their wishes are met when they pass away. 

Upon realizing this statistic, many may be in a rush to draft a will. However, rushing often can lead to mistakes being made during the drafting process. Many often overlook things that matter and make assumptions without the proper knowledge or legal counsel.

How do you prevent mistakes from voiding your will or leaving it open to interpretation after your passing? In this article, we’ll review six of the most common mistakes that are made when drafting a will and how to avoid them.

Mistake 1: The Will Is Drafted For Death

The worst assumption many make when drafting their will is that they assume a will is only for their end-of-life matters. A will, however, is not enough by itself and should include supporting documents to provide information about what you want to happen to you while you’re alive. 

If you cannot communicate what you want to happen due to a health condition that renders you not of sound mind (such as dementia, alzheimers, or other neurodegenerative disorders), you make these decisions in a financial power of attorney and an advanced health care directive. You should include information about who you want to make financial and medical decisions and what treatments you refuse.

Mistake 2: The Will Ignores Matters Outside The Will

If your daughter is named beneficiary on your bank account, her status as a beneficiary on that account supersedes whatever was in the will. This means that, while drafting a will, you should also make any adjustments to property the will may not maintain. If you want a significant other to inherit your accounts when you pass, for example, you’d need to go through the process of removing your daughter from those accounts first. 

You also have to consider other items that pass outside of the will, like life insurance policies and pensions. Again, you can set these up separately from the will to be given to whoever you name as beneficiary, but you cannot do it simply through a will.

Mistake 3: Your Will Has No Backup Plan

Another mistake that often happens when one drafts their will for the first time is that they fail to acknowledge any backup plan. If the person or people you want to name as a beneficiary pass away before you and you don’t update your will, the assets you left to them are then open for dispute amongst your loved ones. 

To prevent this mistake, ensure your will offers alternate beneficiaries if something happens to your heirs before you pass away. 

Backup plans also allow you to account for marriages and divorces that could happen in your family. Ensure your will is updated often to reflect the state of current affairs as they develop.

Mistake 4: Your Will Is Handwritten

In your mad rush to write a will after realizing its importance, it is straightforward to assume that writing it down is all there is to it. Some states recognize what is called a holographic will, but not all do.

It seems like, as long as it can be proven you wrote it, that your wishes should be honored. However, to prevent arguments about the validity of the will, you need it typed and witnessed in accordance with state law.

Mistake 5: Leaving Things Out

Another mistake often made is that you may forget to include information about specific assets. This seems impossible to do since the entire point of a will is to explain what happens to your assets, right? 

It’s more common than you think. If you want to leave behind a grandfather clock that’s been in your family to a specific relative, what happens to the second, less-glamorous grandfather clock in your dining room? Worse yet, what if the will does not specify which grandfather clock is in question? Many make assumptions in their will and leave out things they think are less important. Even the most minor of things need to be included to prevent disputes. 

You also need to ensure that a guardian is named, should you have young children. If you don’t, the court may have to step in and choose someone on their behalf. This legal and financial entanglement can be simply avoided if you select someone to take care of your children in the event that you pass away while one or more of them is still a minor.

Mistake 6: Naming The Wrong Person

Whoever you name the executor of your will or guardian of your children will face significant responsibilities and legal consequences if they make a mistake. If you leave these responsibilities to somebody who is utterly unprepared for them, they may abandon guardianship or be relieved from their status as personal representatives. 

Before assigning any person responsibility in your will, you should ensure that you discuss your expectations with them first to make sure they’re prepared for the emotional, legal, and the physical rigor these responsibilities demand.

When You Are Ready to Write Your Will, Let the Professional’s Help

Our team at ProvenLaw can help you with any step of your estate planning process. We help your family face less uncertainty about what will happen when you pass and take the unneeded stress out of end-of-life planning. It’s hard to write a will, and we’re here to ensure your wishes will be met every step of the way. 

Creating an estate plan is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure your legacy is honored the way you want it to be. To make sure nothing prevents your wishes are fulfilled, contact us today and work with our team to ensure your will is ironclad.

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