Monday, September 22, 2014

3 Mistakes You Are Making with Your Will

Hopefully you have read my post on The Benefits of a Will, have met with an attorney and drafted a will.  If not, go back and read that post before you continue on.  If so, here are a few mistakes you may be making with regards to your Will.  

1. Keeping it in a safe deposit box.
I'm sure your attorney told you to make sure you keep your Will in a safe place.  As you may or may not know, in order to administer your estate (distribute your property) after your death, the executor needs to take your Will to the courthouse.  In most circumstances, though there are a few exceptions, the Court will only recognize the original signed will - not a copy.  So, what's safer than a safe deposit box?  Well, maybe nothing.  The problem comes into play with accessing your safe deposit box after your death.  If you are going to keep your will in a safe deposit box, ensure that the executor (and back-up executor, see below) have access to your safe deposit box without you being present.  Otherwise, your executor is going to run into major problems accessing your will, which is one of the first steps to distributing your property. 

2. Only designating one executor and/or beneficiary.
Let's say there is only one person in your life that you want to handle your estate and/or want to inherit all of your property so you only listed one person as the executor and one person as the beneficiary and were content with your will.  Here's the problem: if that person is no longer willing or able to serve as the executor, or they have passed away prior to you, who knows where your property is going to go?  If you only list one executor and that person is unable or unwilling to serve, the court will have to appoint someone to do the job.  To fix this, appoint an executor and then appoint someone as a back up executor, should the first person be unable or unwilling to serve.  Same thing goes for your beneficiaries: make sure you have back ups.  So give all of your property to the one person who you want to receive it, and if they have predeceased you, give it to a back up person.  This could be a person, a charity, a church, etc.  If you do not list enough people/organizations as beneficiaries and the court cannot find any heirs at law, the government may end up receiving all of your property. 

3. Not reviewing/updating your Will
It is absolutely wonderful that you have a will in place.  However, it is important to review it on a regular basis (I would suggest at least annually).  This will ensure that your plan remains exactly as you want it.  Maybe you've had a falling out with a beneficiary, or maybe you've had new additions to the family.  Make sure your will is up to date on a regular basis.  In addition, you may want to contact your attorney each year to ensure the laws have not changed surrounding your will and that it will still play out exactly as you want it too.

Whether you have drafted your will yet or not, these are some concerns that you should keep in mind.  As always, you should discuss the specifics of your circumstances with an attorney to determine the best plan for you.  If you would like a consultation on a will or any related document, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or