There are a number of errors that can be made during the drafting process that can damage the effectiveness of your will. Five of the most common mistakes to avoid in drafting your will include:
- Vague or Unclear Wording: When you are drafting a will, it is important to use clear and specific language. After you pass away, your will should provide a clear understanding of your last wishes that can be easily carried out by your loved ones. Clear wording can reduce confusion and tension after your death, leaving a helpful guide for friends and family.
- Forgotten Assets: Oftentimes when drafting a will, individuals will forget to account for certain assets, or perhaps new assets that will be acquired after the will is drafted. Assets that are not passed by will are distributed according to state intestacy laws. If assets are left out of your will, distribution of your assets upon your death may be delayed as the probate court determines who is entitled to the assets. By utilizing a residuary clause in your will, you can ensure that any forgotten assets will pass to an individual of your choosing rather than according to a court order.
- Improper Appointments: When deciding who will be responsible for distributing your assets after death, it is important to select an Executor (sometimes called a Personal Representative) who will be capable of filling this often heavy role. Additionally, if you have minor children, it is a good idea to appoint a competent Guardian in the event that your child is left with no surviving parents. Assigning the roles of Executor and Guardian should not be taken lightly. It can be helpful to discuss these decisions with potential appointees.
- No Updates: If you have had a child, acquired new assets, gotten married or divorced, or lost a loved one, you may need to update your existing will to account for these changes. As stated above, any assets not distributed through your will are going to pass according to state intestacy laws. If you made specific gifts or assigned roles to named individuals in your will, you may wish to make changes to account for new or severed relationships.
- Lost Wills: After you have created a will, it is important to let loved ones know where your original will can be found in the event that you pass away. A probate court will require a signed original copy of your will. If your will is lost or inaccessible after you pass away, the probate process could be delayed, distribution of your assets could be postponed, and your will could even be rendered ineffective.