Pitfalls You Can Avoid in Your Will

Misunderstandings regarding inheritance can cause disagreements. You don’t want your Will to create any conflicts among family members. That’s why you need to watch out for ambiguous wording. Describe all gifts and bequests clearly so everyone knows exactly what you mean. If you think there might be some fighting, include your reasoning for your decisions.

Here are some other issues that can occur:

  • Choosing a bad executor — When coming up with the person who’ll administer your estate, you want someone you trust. If the person you choose cannot serve because they are no longer of sound mind or have died, you need to change the executor. Before you add an executor to your Will, make sure to ask them.
  • Improper witness signature — A Will is not considered valid until it has been executed according to the laws of your state. In most states, a Will is considered executed when one witness signs it, but in some places, it’s more complicated. In Connecticut, for example, at least two witnesses must sign in your presence and in the presence of each other. A clause stating that the person signing is of sound mind is critical. Its absence calls into question the signer’s capacity.
  • Failure to date — Without a date, there’s no way of telling how old the Will is. If other Wills are presented to probate court, the judge will have a hard time determining which one is the most current.
  • Failure to provide intent — The Will must state what it is and its purpose.
  • Lack of specificity — The Will should be specific in its terms and conditions; otherwise, beneficiaries may contest it. It must include locations, descriptions and beneficiaries’ relationships to you. Leave no room for doubt in your meaning.
  • Missing assets — Add a residuary or leftovers clause to ensure that any assets not specifically named in the Will are still given to your beneficiaries.
  • Improper changes — Amending a Will with a codicil often needs to be done a particular way according to state law. Be sure you’re abiding by the law so that your changes take effect.
  • Forgetting to update your Will — Births, adoptions, deaths, divorces, moves to a different state, new business ventures and so on should prompt you to make sure your Will is up to date.
  • Leaving money to Fido and Mittens — You can’t leave money to your pets, although you can designate that funds be set aside in a trust for them. Basically, don’t put impractical or illegal conditions on your heirs before they can receive their inheritance.

Will contests can be expensive and stressful, and can take a long time to conclude. Your Will may be thrown out and declared invalid. A probate judge then decides where your assets go, and the decisions you made about how your estate is divided and with what provisions will be ignored. By avoiding these pitfalls and working with qualified legal professionals, you will hopefully steer clear of challenges.

Do you have questions?

You can count on Ericson, Scalise & Mangan, PC to provide you with sound guidance and experience in these uncertain times. For assistance with your legal needs, please contact us today at (860) 229-0369, or email us at info@esmlaw.com.