Do you know what a will is? Many believe a testament is a way to record an individual’s last wishes. However, this definition is overly simplistic. A will is, in fact, a way to maintain control of our assets even after death. This means that, by writing a legacy document, we ensure that our possessions, earned through hard work throughout our lives, are directed to those we consider most suitable to receive or manage them. 

Common Will Mistakes to Avoid

When writing a will, it’s essential to be aware of the most common mistakes that can cause the document to be misinterpreted or invalidated. Here are some of these pitfalls and tips on how to avoid them.

  • Not Having a Suitable Witness

A witness in the context of will-making is someone who sees the testator (the person making the testament) sign the document and then signs it themselves to confirm this act. Witnesses are crucial because they can help prove the validity of the legacy document if it is ever contested. They certify that the testator was of sound mind and not under any duress when signing the will.

The testator can choose anyone they wish to be a witness, but some rules must be followed. The witness must be of legal age and cannot benefit from the will, even indirectly (for example, the spouse of someone who is benefiting cannot be a witness). 

It is possible to have more than one witness to increase the reliability of the process, but the witnesses and the person making the will (the testator) must all be present together at the same time during the signing. Each witness watches the testator sign the document; then, each witness signs the testament themselves while still in the presence of the testator and each other.

  • Failing to Update the Will

Over time, your relationships, assets, and preferences might change. For example, you might separate from your spouse or break ties with people once central in your life. We all want to avoid these situations, but unfortunately, they are part of life. 

If this happens and you do not update your will, your estate could be inherited by ex-spouses or other people with whom you no longer maintain friendly relations. Moreover, the person you now consider most suitable—your current spouse, for example—might miss out on the assets they could have been entitled to. 

Therefore, always update your will whenever significant events occur in your life, such as marriages, divorces, the arrival of new children, the death of a beneficiary, or the purchase or sale of high-value assets or properties.

  • Ignoring Important Items

When making a testament, the priority is determining what to do with the most valuable properties. However, precisely because of this focus, some precious things can be overlooked, leading to disputes after the testator’s departure. Therefore, remember to include intangible assets in your will, such as stocks, bonds, bank accounts, retirement funds, cryptocurrency, online accounts, and intellectual property rights. 

If you have dependent children or care for other relatives, it’s crucial to specify guardianship preferences in your will. Moreover, pets are legally considered property but require special consideration for their care. Assign a caregiver and set aside funds for their support.

Consider adding a residuary clause. This paragraph covers any assets not specifically mentioned in your will, ensuring they are distributed according to your general wishes rather than treated as intestate property.

  • Choosing an Unsuitable Executor

An executor plays a pivotal role in managing your estate after your passing, from paying off debts and taxes to distributing assets according to your wishes. It should be someone you trust wholeheartedly, as they will handle significant responsibilities.

While they don’t need to be financial experts, having a basic understanding of financial matters is beneficial as they will need to manage estate finances and understand tax implications. Furthermore, it’s crucial that the executor can act impartially among beneficiaries, especially in potentially contentious situations. Ensure the person is willing and available to take on the role.

  • Failing to seek professional advice

Given the legal complexities involved in estate planning, professional guidance is highly recommended. Laws governing wills can be complex, inheritance taxes can significantly affect the value of the assets handed down to your beneficiaries, and adequately addressing the distribution of businesses and overseas properties requires a type of expertise that only a professional can provide.

Will solicitors in Liverpool ensure that your testament complies with the law and is legally binding. For those with complicated family dynamics, such as blended families, previous marriages, or estranged relatives, a professional can offer solutions to address these complexities fairly and clearly.

While drafting a will on your own may seem more economical, the risks of errors and omissions can ultimately prove costly for your possessions and your heirs. Engaging with professionals to draft and update your document can safeguard your wishes, ensure legal compliance, and provide peace of mind that your estate will be managed according to your intentions.

Wills are strategic tools for estate planning. By understanding and avoiding common pitfalls, you can safeguard against unexpected conflicts and misunderstandings that could result in your legacy being transferred contrary to your wishes.