“I, Bob Everyman, being of sound mind and body do formally set forth my last Will and Testament.” It is the phrase everyone knows as standard opening language for a Will and usually the extent of most people’s expertise with such a document.
There are plenty of reasons people avoid or delay creating a Will – sickness, expense or the belief that they do not have assets to pass on. There is simply no good excuse for ignoring what may be the most important legal document in your life. The potential consequences are numerous. Five very common do-it-yourself mistakes are among the top reasons to seek the guidance of a qualified Elder Law attorney when creating your Will:
- Online “templates” often do not consider your state’s laws regarding inheritance, Long-Term Care, trusts and other matters. What works in another state may not satisfy laws in Washington or Idaho. Your family and loved ones could encounter substantial difficulties inheriting assets according to your wishes.
- We all make assumptions about the future. Husbands believe they will outlive their wives. Children plan to outlive their parents. We think assets that exist today will still exist tomorrow. A strong Will plans beyond the assumed, so if there is an unexpected illness, a car accident or a natural disaster that destroys property, loved ones and existing financial assets are still protected. Elder Law attorneys are trained and experienced in identifying those potential challenges and creating solutions to overcome them.
- Home-made Wills are typically difficult or impossible to execute as written and often are not even valid or enforceable. Executors are often named, but are not granted rights to fully manage the estate through the sale of assets to pay creditors or to fulfill other obligations outlined in the Will. There is also rarely an alternate Executor named in case the original choice is unable or unwilling to administer the Will at the time of death.
- Gifts and bequests are incomplete or easily contested. A parent may leave the family home to an only child, but what about the contents and any vehicles on the property? Unless specified in the Will, others may attempt to make claims on those items. Or, a Will may specify an adult child receives the house and all its contents, but then leaves no directions regarding payment of insurance, taxes or maintenance associated with the property.
- Attention to detail. It is one of the biggest values an attorney brings to any equation – especially with your Will. Only a qualified attorney can make absolutely certain that all other Wills are formally revoked; remove any vague or confusing language; ensure the Will is properly signed, dated and witnessed; and will perform as expected when you pass.