Drawing up a will is an important step for anyone who wants to communicate their wishes and intentions after death. A will ensures that your family is taken care of by naming guardians for your children and making allocations for your spouse. A well-crafted will communicates how you want your property and assets distributed. It also provides valuable instructions for your funeral arrangements.
Having a will drawn up with the help of a notary, lawyer or estate planner can sometimes be pricey, so some individuals choose to make one on their own without professional help. There are many DIY will kits on the market, with fill-in-the-blank documents and instructions on how to get your last will and testament signed and witnessed so it is legally binding.
It’s important to take special care and give close attention to creating a will, as many people make mistakes in the process that end up invalidating their will. There is nothing worse than carefully preparing a document making your wishes known, only to die and have all your hard work count for nothing. Legally, an improperly-prepared will serves no purpose and can’t be fulfilled.
To avoid that kind of unfortunate outcome, here are the most common mistakes that invalidate wills and leave you with no legal foot to stand on.
The Will Isn’t Dated
Newer wills invalidate older ones. It’s normal to change and update your will as you go, adjusting to new family members or changing circumstances. That’s why it is so crucial to make sure any new wills you draft are dated. That way, your Executor will know which version is valid–instead of being in the uncomfortable position of running around, trying to collect evidence to validate an undated will.
The Will Isn’t Signed or Witnessed Correctly
In order for a will to be valid, it must be signed and witnessed by the proper people, in the right way. For example, the will must be signed by the will-maker in front of two witnesses, who then need to sign in front of the will-maker and each other. Witnesses can’t be a spouse or beneficiary of the will, nor can it be anyone who translated the will (or their spouse) or the person who signed the will for the person making the will (or their spouse). The will needs to be signed but also initialled in specific places by the will-maker and witnesses, and the initials and signatures need to be clear enough that you can identify who the witnesses are. As you can see, it’s not as simple as it first appears; and a will document with improper or incomplete signatures and witnesses can be invalidated. Another outcome is that, if a prohibited person (like a beneficiary) witnessed your will, that person may not be able to receive anything from the will as a result of improper involvement in this step.
The Will is Partially Typed but also Handwritten
This may not be intuitive, but if a will is fully written out in the will-maker’s handwriting, it can be witnessed and be valid. However, most people print out forms from the internet and fill them in by hand; this mix of handwriting and typed content requires formal witnessing.
The Will Includes Unsanctioned Demands
Contrary to popular belief, you can’t just put anything you want into a will. Some requests are unauthorized and including them in your last will and testament will not hold. For example, giving your mistress everything you have and leaving nothing to your spouse isn’t possible; your wife retains a valid claim to your estate for maintenance, no matter what you wrote. Putting unsanctioned conditions on gifts can be void because of public policy; that includes scenarios where you leave a gift to someone on the condition that they marry someone of a certain religion or orientation. In that case, the request will be void.
Putting together a valid last will and testament is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones. Making decisions in advance about who will have guardianship of your children, what your spouse will receive and how your assets will be distributed means that when you pass away, your loved ones won’t need to worry about what your wishes were and shoulder the burden of trying to figure everything out. However, making your will following the correct procedures will avoid mistakes that can invalidate your will. The best way to ensure that your will is prepared correctly is to enlist the expertise of an experienced estate planner at a trusted law firm like Kalicki Collier.
If you need help preparing your Wills, Enduring Power of Attorney and Personal Directive, contact us and we would be happy to help with an initial consultation. At Kalicki Collier, we have made the process as quick and painless as possible and we want to guide you through it with our expertise and experience!