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Writing a Will: Best Practices and Common Mistakes

Healthcare | August 16, 2023

An older woman has finished writing a will and is reviewing it for common mistakes.

As you navigate through your retirement years, the time will come when you need to consider getting your estate in order and write a will. While will writing is a sensitive subject for a wide array of reasons – it’s essential and offers peace of mind that your family will be taken care of in the event of your passing.

Studies have found that less than half of Americans have a will to divide their estate and belongings after they pass away. With complex legal processes regarding estates, dividing a person’s assets after they pass can be emotionally and financially difficult. This is made even more complex if they do not leave clear, legally sound instructions that guarantee their wishes are carried out after they pass.

To avoid this potential situation, let’s take a look at some of the biggest mistakes individuals can make with their wills so that you can feel confident that your loved ones are protected, and assets are secured.

Common Mistakes and Tips for Writing a Will

Writing a will can get complicated depending on the size of your estate. If you haven’t started on yours yet, or wanted to update your already existing will, take a look at these six common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Not Including Certain Assets

The goal of writing a will is to have some control over your final wishes. Without a will, local probate courts divide your assets based on inheritance laws. When you forget to include certain assets in your will, those assets are divided up by the court. No matter how small, you should include as much detail as possible when determining who you want to inherit certain items. To avoid this, some wills include a “residuary clause” which includes assets that may have been overlooked and not listed specifically in the will.

Other sensitive information you should keep in mind includes digital access to bank logins, social media accounts, and emails. These details are important to keep track of so that they can be handled with care by a trusted loved one.

Choosing the Wrong Executor

Your executor is responsible for settling your estate after you pass. The duties of the executor include settling debts and dispersing your assets to your beneficiaries. While the executor doesn’t have to be a financial or legal professional, they should be someone you trust to carry out your wishes. If you name an executor that is unable or willing to manage your estate properly, this could create additional work for your loved ones to sort out.

It’s recommended to determine the best possible executor for your estate as early as possible so that you can discuss your intentions and wishes with them.

Forgetting Local Laws

Laws and policies regarding wills can differ greatly between states. Before you sit down to write your will, you need to consider your state’s rules and regulations, or you run the risk of your will being declared invalid. Certain requirements such as age restrictions, number of witnesses required, and whether the will needs notarized, are all critical for you to be aware of to avoid unnecessary legal changes.

Forgetting to Update the Will

A common mistake that many make when creating a will is that they forget to update it periodically when circumstances change. This includes divorce, the loss of a beneficiary, or the addition of assets. Taking a glance at your will every so often can keep you from unintentionally creating problems for your loved ones if you were to pass unexpectedly.

Fails to Consider Beneficiaries

It’s important to consider how an inheritance might impact your loved one’s life. Certain assets could have a negative impact on your heir if they’re currently receiving government benefits. What was originally supposed to be a thoughtful gift could result in them losing access to essential benefits that they rely on.

You should also keep in mind the potential passing of a beneficiary or executor. It’s important to name alternate beneficiaries, or an alternate executor, in case any of these individuals pass away before you to avoid potential arguments over assets.

Doesn’t Include Advance Directives

It may surprise you to learn that a will can address more than just what happens after you pass. A comprehensive will should include advance directives, which are legally binding instructions designed to guide caregivers if you can’t articulate your own healthcare wishes because of dementia or other health declines. The two most common types of advance directives are a living will and a durable power of attorney.

You should consider appointing a loved one you can trust to carry out your wishes just in case your health was to suddenly decline.

Navigating through your golden years can be complicated. Luckily, housing doesn’t have to be. National Church Residences offers quality senior living options around the country and strives to help our residents enhance their quality of life. Use our online community finder to find a community that’s right for you.

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