Let’s face it, no one wants to plan for their own death. Call it denial, procrastination or the refusal to deal with their own mortality. Either way, there may be negative consequences if you do not plan and create a will.
A simple will is not as difficult as brain surgery. Sure you can attempt to do it on your own but hiring an experienced estate planning attorney is certainly a safer choice. However, if you are not willing to pay hundreds of dollars for this service, there are plenty of online services which offer fill in the blank forms that help you generate a will. This would undoubtedly be better than having no will at all. But everyone’s situation is unique, and therefore the advice of an attorney can help you avoid some severe legal mistakes.
Below are some common mistakes people make when preparing their own will:
Forgot to include an alternate trustee in the event the named trustee predeceases or is unable or unwilling to serve.
Did not include the name of a disinherited heir. It is best to mention the name and expressly state you that you are making no provisions for the named heir. This leaves no room for the will to be challenged because they were left out accidentally.
Did not include a self-proving affidavit. Now the witnesses would have to be tracked down in the event of death to testify to the validity of the will.
Do not make the inheritance conditional. This often becomes complex and it may create uncertainty for your will’s executor and may possibly lead to lawsuits. But should you need one, it better serves you to hire an attorney to consider the potential complications of a conditional will.
Do not leave significant assets directly to minors – if you do the court will appoint a guardian. You may place assets in a Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA) and select a custodian of your choice. Keep in mind a UTMA gives the beneficiary full control of the assets by or before 21 depending on the state. If you wish for the heir to receive the assets a little later in life, it will benefit you to hire an attorney to set up a trust
Did not include guidance about beneficiary designations on non-probate assets which pass outside the will. Beneficiary designations on specific accounts and assets take precedence over the beneficiaries you name in you will. Make sure you beneficiaries designations align with your wishes in your will.
As you can see the potential for making mistakes when you choose to create your own will may be risky. An attorney, however, will guide you on how to best safeguard your family and maintain and distribute your assets according to your wishes.