It’s one thing to have a will; it’s another to have a will that works well. In fact, there are some cases where it is probably better not to have a will at all than to have one that is defective or that fails to accomplish your wishes.
Here are four of the more common mistakes individuals make when preparing a will:
1. Do it yourself.
State law dictates what is and what isn’t legal in drafting and signing a will. A universal will form obtained at a stationery store or a homemade will based on hearsay advice is risky, to say the least. A good estate-planning attorney can ask the right questions to help you make sure you are covering all the bases in planning the disposition of your estate. It seems well worth the cost to obtain professional help in preparing your will to make sure things are done correctly and for your own peace of mind,.
2. Provide incorrect or unclear information.
If you are making a bequest to a charity it is important to use the full legal name of the organization. This will avoid confusion and possible delays during probate. In addition, be as clear as you can. If you are making a bequest for a specific purpose, spell out your wishes so the recipient will know exactly what you intended. Charitable organizations usually prefer unrestricted bequests, since this allows them to apply the gift where it is needed most.
3. Hide your will.
You may have a perfectly valid will that expresses your wishes exactly — but no one can find it at your death. In addition to storing your will in a safe place, make sure you tell the appropriate persons where it is located.
4. Overlook other transfer arrangements.
A will provides only one way to transfer assets at death. If this document is not coordinated with other transfer arrangements, enormous problems may result.
For example, what happens if your will provides for an equal division of your estate among family members and your life insurance policy earmarks the death benefit for, say, the oldest child? The life insurance proceeds would go to the older child as well as a portion of the estate identified in your will. Hence, one family member would receive far more than the others — possibly not what you would intend.