21 Dec 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Will
Don’t let a simple mistake undo all the hard work you put into writing your will. If there is a mistake in your will, it could make the will invalid or prevent your assets from ending up in the right hands at the right time. Whether you’ve already prepared a will or are planning to draft one, it’s important to know which common mistakes people make in their wills so you can correct or avoid them.
Avoid These Five Common Mistakes People Make in Wills
1: Incorrectly Executing the Will
If you don’t execute your will properly, it won’t be recognized by the court and your final wishes could be ignored. In order for a will to be valid in Arizona, you must sign it in front of two witnesses while you are of sound mind. After your death, your witnesses will be required to testify in order to prove the validity of the will.
However, following these steps can still make your will invalid if you choose the wrong witnesses. Under Arizona law, your witnesses cannot be minors, one of your beneficiaries, or anyone directly related to a beneficiary by marriage, blood, or adoption.
2: Not Listing Backup Beneficiaries
It’s also important to name secondary beneficiaries, just in case one of your beneficiaries dies unexpectedly, or decides to refuse the inheritance altogether. In Arizona, if a beneficiary who is related to you predeceases you or disclaims the inheritance, then their portion of your estate passes to their surviving children. If they have no children, the assets will be distributed to your next of kin.
So if you want to control who receives an inheritance, you’ll need to designate a backup beneficiary (called a contingent beneficiary) for each asset. You should also name backups for any roles you assign in your will, such as guardian or executor.
Keep in mind that the beneficiary you list for assets that don’t transfer through your will (like retirement accounts and life insurance policies) overrides the will. For instance, say in your will you name your current spouse to receive your life insurance policy. If your ex-spouse is still the current beneficiary of the policy, they will receive the proceeds despite your wishes.
3: Leaving Out Digital Assets
When you think about leaving your assets to your loved ones, you probably think of money, real estate, vehicles, heirlooms, etc. However, many people forget to include their digital assets in their wills. Digital assets can include:
- Email accounts
- Social media accounts
- Streaming services
- Cryptocurrency wallets
- Online payment platforms
- Online banking accounts
- Credit cards
- Digital music libraries
- Digital photo and video storage
To protect your digital assets, you will first need to make a list of all your online accounts, passwords, and digital documents. Then, you will need to place the assets in a digital vault and leave instructions in your will so your loved ones can gain access to your online accounts.
4: Failing to Plan for Disability
A successful estate plan covers more than just what happens after you pass away. It’s also essential that you plan for the possibility of becoming disabled or incapacitated.
One way to do this is to create a type of advance directive called a living will, which details your wishes regarding healthcare if you can no longer make decisions on your own. You can also draft a medical power of attorney document to name someone who will make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
5: Neglecting to Update the Will
If you want your will to be successful, you need to keep it up to date with any major life events that occur. For example, if you get married or divorced, or have new children and grandchildren, you’ll need to update your beneficiary and guardian designations.
Other states have different requirements for validating a will, so you’ll also need to update your estate plan if you ever move out of state. If you’re making major changes, you may need to write a new will. Otherwise, you can make changes by writing a codicil to amend your current will.
Review Your Will with a Professional
Whether you need to make changes to your will or write a new one, you should always consult an estate planning attorney. They will help ensure that your will is valid and that it covers all your wishes.
At Phelps LaClair, we’ve been helping Arizona families avoid making mistakes in their wills for over 40 years. We also have plenty of experience correcting mistakes in an already existing will by helping our clients write a codicil or draft a new will. Call us at 480-892-2488 today to schedule an appointment.