1. You’re not aware that certain situations override a will.
Some people think that a will is the end-all-be-all of one’s financial arrangements. However, certain parties, such as the beneficiaries listed in your retirement plan, investment accounts, and life insurance have precedence over your will. So, if one of your children is listed in your investment plan and there are two children mentioned in the will, the child listed will receive the investment plan. To work around these kinds of details, one should list their estate as the beneficiary.
2. Failing to update your will.
Compiling your will is certainly a tedious task and one that you’d like to spend as little time as possible. That being said, life circumstances can change over the years, and your will should reflect those changes. Examples of such changes are marriage, divorce, the birth of children and grandchildren, etc. Estate lawyers agree that this is, in fact, one of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to compiling a will. It is for this reason that estate lawyers usually recommend revising one’s will every 5-7 years.
3. You outlined the beneficiaries of items with sentimental value too loosely.
Don’t let your spouse, the children, and other beneficiaries decide who gets your valuables. Consult a specialist to outline the terms clearly and avoid vague descriptions like “all beneficiaries get an equal part of personal property.” This is especially true in the case of items that hold significant sentimental value.
If you have trouble deciding who gets what, you can always ask the potential heirs themselves. “If you know somebody wants something, just put it down. It will make it so much easier,” said Carmen Rosas, an estate planning attorney from California to the Huffington Post. So the bottom line is, the less room you leave for doubt - the better.
4. Forgetting about the little things.
Personal property often becomes a point of contention. Any personal property, such as jewelry, antiques, and even clothing or your library should be clearly outlined in your will to save your family and any other beneficiaries the excessive stress and evade potential conflicts.
Similarly, if you have a pet, you should clearly outline who is responsible for animal care. It’s best to discuss who of your relatives or neighbors will adopt your pet personally, but adding a line about it in your will is a good idea as well. You can also arrange pet adoption via a specific animal shelter in your will.
Last but not least, consider your digital assets as well, such as online accounts and banking logins. These assets may have some sentimental and financial value as well, and you don’t want your information to land in the wrong hands.
5. No one knows where to find your will.
This seems obvious, but estate lawyers say that families often find themselves in a scenario where the original or the updated version of the will can’t be located. For this reason, you should always let your loved ones know where to find the most updated copy of your will or give them your attorney’s contacts in case your lawyer is the one holding the will. After all, there's no point in you spending all that time writing your will if no one will be able to find it, is there?
6. You named the wrong executor.
The executor of the will is the person who administers your estate. This can be a family member, but that is not always the best choice. Whomever you choose as the executor of your will, you should let them know ahead of time, as not everyone will be happy to accept the responsibility.
“Sometimes they don't want the job and they don't appreciate the surprise,” stated Austin Frye, a certified financial planner in Florida to Cashay. It’s also a good idea to name a secondary executor in case the person you appointed first is incapacitated or cannot carry out the will for other reasons.
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