What are The Most Common Will Mistakes and How Do I Avoid Them?
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What are The Most Common Will Mistakes and How Do I Avoid Them?

What are the most common Will mistakes? How Do I avoid mistakes in my Will? In this article, we'll go over the 8 most common Will mistakes and tips on how to avoid them! Keep reading to learn more.

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It’s easy to make a mistake when you’re drafting a Will by yourself. This is one of the reasons so many people don’t even make a Last Will and Testament. They are reluctant to pay an attorney but they’re rightfully nervous about drafting their own document. And we would never suggest that you start researching the law on your own. Have you ever read a book of statutes? That’s the path to ruin (and boredom). 

That’s why AI-guided Wills are so helpful. Rather than paying a lawyer and spending weeks on meetings and discussions, you can have a legally binding Will in just minutes. FastWill’s powerful AI gives you access to the same estate planning tools that lawyers already use. But unlike lawyers, FastWill never retires. In this article, I will go over some of the biggest mistakes people make when drafting their own Wills. Our system helps you avoid making these mistakes so that you can rest easy, whenever that time comes.

Mistake No. 1:  Putting Your Burial and Funeral Wishes in Your Will

If you have specific wishes about your funeral, it’s fine to include them in your Will. But they can’t *just* be in your Will. In the days after a person’s death, the surviving family and friends are overwhelmed by making the funeral arrangements. Usually they don’t even look at a person’s Will until weeks later, after the person has already been buried. That’s why you should leave a letter summarizing your wishes about funerals, burial or cremation, and memorial services. Give it to someone you trust. The same is true of any pre-arrangements you made with a funeral home.

Mistake No. 2: Failing to Anticipate Other Unexpected Deaths

When drafting a Will, you have to make decisions about who will manage probate (the Executor), who will be named Guardian over your children, and who will be the beneficiaries. But naming these individuals isn’t enough, because it’s possible that they may die before you do, leaving a big hole in the middle of your estate plan. That’s why you need to name alternates for each of those roles. Nobody likes thinking about their own death and here I am pressuring you to think about other people’s deaths! Sorry, maybe just pretend that your first choices aren’t available for random reasons. Whatever works for you is fine - just remember that your plans need backup plans.

Mistake No. 3: Forgetting to Ask People If They Are Willing to Serve in Key Roles

A related mistake happens when you forget to have a conversation with key people named in your Will about whether they are willing to serve. The person you name as Guardian for your children might not be willing to take on such a gargantuan task, even if the possibility you’ll pass away while your kids are young is pretty remote. That’s why it is imperative that you have a conversation with these key people before naming them in your Will. You might think that it would be awkward to broach the subject, but you know what’s even more uncomfortable? Someone finding out you expected them to be the Executor or Guardian after you pass away. 

Mistake No. 4: Forgetting About Your Residuary Estate

According to NerdWallet, “A residuary estate is the portion of a person’s assets that are left over after paying off their estate’s debts, taxes and expenses and after distributing any specific gifts of property or money.” Think of the residuary as the leftovers after a good meal. You wouldn’t just throw them in the trash; at a minimum, you’d give the extras to Fido. 

So, here’s how it works when those leftovers are part of your estate:  let’s say you die with a $500,000 estate. If $100,000 goes toward debts, taxes, and the Executor’s expenses, then there’s $400,000 left.  You’ll have to decide what happens to the rest of it. Do you want to make specific bequests, like giving your granddaughter your autographed Hank Aaron baseball? Do you want to leave the remainder to charity, such as the American Cancer Society? Many people make the mistake of forgetting to deal with the residuary items because they don’t know or care what will be left. In those circumstances, you should be sure to include a residuary estate clause that will say what happens with the residuary estate and how you wish for it to be distributed. FastWill helps you avoid making that mistake by including a residuary clause in your documents.

Mistake No. 5:  Forgetting About Intangible Assets

When you’re preparing to draft your online Will, you always make a list of assets. You begin with things like houses and cars and personal possessions. It’s crucial that these assets are included, but you still need to list your intangible assets as well. Intangible assets include non-fungible tokens (NFTs), cryptocurrencies, and social media accounts (especially those that hold your personal photos and videos). Then there are things like bank accounts and investment accounts. You’ll need to look carefully at those accounts to determine if they pass through your Will or simply through a named beneficiary.  If digital assets are important to you, you can name a Digital Executor to make sure they are handled according to your instructions. 

Mistake No. 6: Never Updating Your Will

Heath Ledger made a huge mistake before he passed away; he had a Last Will and Testament that didn’t include his daughter. How could that happen? His Will was drafted years before she was born and he simply never updated his Will. This is a very common mistake. Sometimes it happens because going to an attorney is expensive. Other times people just forget. That’s why working with an online Will service can give you peace of mind. FastWill allows you to make a Will in minutes. You can then update your Will yourself whenever something major happens in your life. You can even set a reminder on your calendar or phone to revisit the Will once a year. This is also a great way to make sure that your Will is keeping tabs of the latest changes in state law without calling a lawyer every time you need to make a change. When should you update your Will? When there’s a marriage, divorce, birth, adoption, or relocation. You might also be responsible for caring for a  child or adult with special needs, or you receive an inheritance or a promotion. Any of these events should prompt you to reconsider your estate plan. With FastWill, you can change your Will as many times as you want. 

Mistake No. 7:  Botching the Execution of the Will

Wills often get invalidated because they don’t follow the proper formalities for executing the Will. The requirements vary from state to state, but generally include signing the document with two witnesses. The witnesses are the way that a court verifies that the person who made the Will was really you. If you didn’t sign it, or someone who was a witness wasn’t legally able to serve in that role, the whole Will could be invalidated. Then the probate court will treat you as if you died without a Will. This is known as “dying intestate” and yes it’s just as bad as it sounds. If you die intestate, state law determines what happens to your assets. This is exactly the thing you were trying to avoid by having a Will. FastWill harnesses the power of AI to tell you what the execution requirements are in your state. That way you will know exactly what you need to do to make your Will legally binding.

Mistake No. 8:  Picking an Executor Who Isn’t Up to the Job

Choosing an Executor is one of the most important decisions you have to make. Many people pick their spouse as an Executor, but remember, your spouse may not outlive you, so you’ll need to name an alternate. But no matter who you pick, the person needs to be able to show good judgment. Don’t pick someone who has a bad reputation, isn’t reliable, or can’t manage their own finances. Doris Duke was a tobacco heiress who died with a fortune of more than $1.3 billion. Duke supported charitable causes when she was alive and she expected that to continue after her death. However, she screwed up by naming her butler as the Executor and as the Trustee of her foundation. He made a mess of things, spending money on himself and cultivating a lavish lifestyle. Eventually, a New York probate court removed him as Executor, sparking a years-long legal battle. Let this be a lesson to all of us not to pick a ne'er-do-well to manage your affairs. Choose someone who is smart and responsible as your Executor.

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