An outdated, incomplete, overly-complex, or poorly drafted will could cause your loved ones a lot of problems after you are gone. In our years following the probate dockets here in the Brandon, Mississippi area, the Palmer & Slay team has seen some really crazy stuff happen because of sloppy estate planning. Below are X mistakes to avoid when you are ready to draft your will.
1. Dropping In A Surprise
Even if you have a flair for the dramatic, there should be no surprises in your will. Don’t leave strange gifts to people. Don’t cut a family member out without telling anyone. Don’t reveal a deeply held secret. These things will only stress out your loved ones and may force them to spend money defending your choices if someone challenges your will.
Your will also becomes a public document once it is filed with the court, so anything you put in it may become the next headline in the local paper.
2. Including Your Funeral and Burial Plans
Most estate planning documents are not consulted until after the funeral and burial of the deceased person have taken place. It is very stressful for loved ones who have done the best they could to grieve and celebrate the life of their loved one to learn that what they did was not at all what their loved one would have preferred.
If you have specific requests for your end-of-life celebration and burial, please tell your loved ones. Do not assume they will look for paperwork outlining your wishes.
3. Naming An Executor Who Will Not Serve You Well
In Mississippi, an executor is a person appointed by the courts to manage the estate of a loved one. They are responsible for carrying out the deceased person’s last requests. They must take an inventory of estate property, pay any taxes or debts owed by the estate, distribute assets as directed by the will, and figure out what to do with the deceased person’s personal items like clothing and furniture. It is a big, time-consuming, emotionally-draining task.
In your will, you name the person or people you would like the court to appoint as your executor. You must appoint someone who is physically and mentally up to the task. As you age, you should reassess your choice, and make changes if necessary. The person you picked the first time you made a will may not be up to the task as you reach the end of your life.
4. Not Updating Your Documents
The choice of executor is not the only thing in your estate plan you should reevaluate from time to time. Your family, your preferences, and the law all change over time. It is important to periodically update your will to make sure it still works as you intend.
5. Forgetting That Other Things May Override Your Will
Putting something in your will does not guarantee it will happen. Requests that are impossible, or go against public policy, will be ignored. If you bequeath your car to your sister, but you sold your car, or your sister has already died, that request will not be carried out.
The court will also ignore requests that are controlled in other ways. For example, if you have filled out the “payable on death” forms for all of your bank accounts, those accounts will automatically pass to those people, no matter what your will says.
Preserving Your Wealth. Protecting Your Loved Ones.
When you are ready to write your will, the Palmer & Slay team is here to help you make sure no mistakes are made. Our experienced team of estate planning professionals can craft a will that meets your specific needs. Please contact us today to schedule a meeting.