What Are The Top Mistakes When Drafting a DIY Will?
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What Are The Top Mistakes When Drafting a DIY Will?

What mistakes should I avoid when making a Will? How do I ensure that my Will is valid and protects my assets? This article outlines our top 10 mistakes and how to avoid them when drafting a Will! Keep reading to learn more.

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10. Not Writing a Will!

The worst possible, really bad, do-not-do-it-ever, mistake you can make in estate planning is NOT WRITING A WILL. You should already know that by now but since I have your attention, please sign-up for FastWill and get ready to write your online DIY Will. Our system is backed by professional lawyers who harnessed artificial intelligence to give you access to the same Will drafting software that estate planners already use. Are you ready to secure your family’s future? Then read on for our other nine tips on avoiding the worst mistakes when drafting a DIY will.

9. Use of Vague, Ambiguous, and Questionable Terms

One of the most common mistakes in DIY wills is a lack of clarity and precision. Here’s an example:  “I hereby leave all of my Vessels to my children.” What does the word vessel mean in this context? Are you leaving your sailboats or your tupperware? You might laugh about this but a court won’t be. 

Vague or ambiguous language leads to confusion and disputes among beneficiaries after your passing. It's essential to clearly identify your assets, designate specific beneficiaries, and outline how your assets should be distributed. Using precise and unambiguous terms will help avoid potential conflicts and ensure your intentions are accurately conveyed.

8. Overusing Dollar Amounts 

It’s fine if you want to leave beneficiaries certain gifts, such as $5,000 to each of your nieces. However, this becomes problematic if what you really want to do is leave them a portion of your estate, including assets like your house and cars. The value of some assets - like real estate - typically go up, whereas the value of vehicles go down. Instead, think of percentages.

7. Not Appointing an Executor 

Appointing an executor is a crucial decision when drafting a Will. The executor is responsible for managing the probate process, distributing assets, and ensuring your final wishes are carried out. Some people forget to name an executor, others just aren’t sure whose name to put down. But if you don’t name someone, that could delay the processing of your Will since the court will have to name someone.

6. Appointing a Bad Executor

Relatedly, appointing an unqualified or inappropriate executor can make a real mess of your estate, which often leads to mismanagement. You should try to avoid naming an executor who will also be a beneficiary of the estate. Tough family dynamics also come into play. You might have three siblings like the Roys on the HBO tv show “Succession.” The siblings distrust each other and each one wants to be the top dog. If one sibling becomes the executor, the other two are going to be calling their lawyers. The bottom line is that you must take the time to select an executor who is reliable, competent, and willing to fulfill their duties. And always communicate that decision to the chosen executor and ask them if they are willing to take on that role. 

5. Forgetting Personal Property

People often leave personal property out of the Will because they think the items don’t have monetary value. If you don't have expensive antiques, jewelry or clothing, you may think it doesn’t matter what happens to all that stuff. But your loved ones might not see it that way. To them, these items have sentimental value. A common way to deal with that is to simply say that the family should equally divide the personal items among themselves. This seems reasonable, but so many family members have emotional attachment to certain items that this decision often creates serious friction. What does it mean for the property division to be equal? Lawyers say they’ve witnessed adult children fighting for months over dad’s favorite easy chair or mom’s potted plants. So what can you do? Find out ahead of time if there are any special items you loved ones want and give it to them before you die. Alternatively name these items and their beneficiaries in the Will. You also hire a company to liquidate your estate.  

4. Not Updating the Will  

Creating a will is not something you do one time and then put the document in a drawer, never to be revisited again. Failing to update your will regularly is a critical mistake. Major life events like marriages, divorces, births, deaths, adoptions, property sale or acquisition and moves can significantly impact your estate planning. Failing to reflect these changes in your will can result in unintended consequences and may render certain provisions ineffective. Periodically reviewing and updating your will to align with your current circumstances is crucial to ensure it remains valid and reflects your current wishes.

3. Forgetting Digital Assets 

In today's digital age, nobody should be overlooking their digital assets. Digital assets include online accounts, social media profiles, cryptocurrencies, digital photos, and other valuable digital possessions. If you don’t secure these assets in your Will, they might be lost forever. Be aware that for some of these assets, especially cryptocurrencies, you may need to review the company’s policies on how assets are transferred after death. Many crypto companies have made it very difficult for these assets to be transferred, so you’ll need to contact them for clarity as soon as possible. You have a right to name a digital executor for your Will. That is a good way to ensure your assets aren’t lost. Just be sure to give that person your login information. 

2. Telling Someone Where You Store the Will

This seems so simple, but lawyers say that many people make this mistake:  they write a Will and put it somewhere but don’t leave instructions for finding it. The Will is not supposed to be a treasure hunt. Simply put the Will someplace where it can easily be found or tell your loved ones or lawyer where to find it.

  1. Putting Instructions About Your Funeral in the Will

You should leave your family instructions about how you want your remains disposed of and any burial or funeral service wishes. It can make sense to leave these in the Will but only if you are certain someone is going to read it beforehand. Usually, a person is buried or cremated before the Will is even read. That’s why leaving instructions in the Will is not enough. Write a letter summarizing your ideas and leave it with someone you trust or in a place where someone can find it. Better yet, pre-pay for your funeral. Then the funeral home will take care of everything for you.

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