Your Last Will and Testament may be the most important legal document you create over the course of your lifetime. Your Will has the power to distribute all your assets when you are gone, determine who oversees the probate of your estate, and even let a judge know who you want to be the Guardian for your minor child if one is ever needed. Given everything your Will can do for you, it is important that you avoid common mistakes when creating a Will.
- Putting it off. The most common reasons provided for the lack of a Will are the belief that one isn’t needed because the individual’s assets are not sufficient and/or because the individual is single and without children. The bottom line is that it is never too early to execute a Will because every adult can benefit from a Will.
- Not working with an attorney. Going the DIY route for home repairs might (or might not) save you time and money; however, doing so with your estate plan is far more likely to cost your loved ones a considerable amount of both time and money when it comes time to probate your estate.
- Using vague terms. It may seem like a tedious job, but when it comes to making gifts in your Will, be as specific as possible. If you are gifting money to someone, explain exactly how much, where the funds are located, and provide the account number. If you are gifting “household furnishings,” provide some details and an address where they are located.
- Not defining beneficiaries. Avoid referring to beneficiaries as a vague group, such as “my children” or “my siblings.” Provide names and contact information. This becomes particularly important if you intend to include step-children or adopted children as well as step-siblings or half-siblings.
- Choosing the wrong Executor. All too often, a Testator simply fills in the name of a spouse, adult child, best friend, or family member as the Executor of his/her estate without giving any real thought as to whether that person is the best choice or not, leading to delays or costly mistakes when it comes to probating the estate.
- Leaving out assets. One of the most common mistakes people make when they go the DIY route is failing to distribute their entire estate in their Will. This, in turn, results in the need to open up an intestate estate probate which can significantly prolong the probate process.
- Naming your young children as beneficiaries. Understandably, as a parent you want to provide for your minor children; however, by law, a minor cannot inherit anything from your estate. Therefore, leaving assets to your minor child in your Will serves only to complicate the probate of your estate because a court may then be forced to decide who will guard those assets until your child reaches the age of majority.
- Leaving out an heir without explanation. You are free to distribute your estate in any way you wish, meaning you can disinherit anyone you wish. Although you are legally required to provide a reason, when you simply leave an obvious beneficiary out of your Will without explanation it dramatically increases the likelihood of a challenge to the Will. It is best to acknowledge the individual and be clear that you intend to disinherit him/her.
- Failing to create additional documents. A Will can accomplish many things, including the distribution of your entire estate after you are gone; however, your Will does not help in the event of your incapacity. Your Will also does not help provide guidance on issues related to end of life medical decisions nor is it the best place to mention your funeral and burial wishes.
- Not updating your Will. Executing a Last Will and Testament is an excellent first step toward creating a comprehensive estate plan that protects you and your loved ones. For that Will to continue to work as intended, however, it must be updated on a regular basis as well as when life events call for an immediate revision.
Contact Florida Estate Planning Attorneys
For additional information please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have specific questions or concerns about creating a Will, please contact the experienced Florida estate planning attorneys at Kulas Law Group by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule an appointment.