Creating a will is an important step in planning for the future of your estate and family after you’re gone. A well-crafted, comprehensive estate plan can take time and expertise to complete, but it’s worth the effort to mitigate the chances of a complicated, divisive probate process.

Poorly written or out-of-date wills can present any number of issues during a probate process. Beneficiaries are already struggling to grieve the loss of a loved one which means tensions are high and emotions are at the forefront for many involved in executing a will.

To lessen the likelihood of a litigious probate process, keep in mind some common errors in estate planning and work to avoid these pitfalls.

1. Choosing an unreliable executor

The executor of your estate holds a great deal of responsibility and power in carrying out your final wishes. Whomever you choose to execute an estate plan needs to possess important traits such as trustworthiness, common sense, business sense and organization skills. This list is by no means exhaustive, but should give an indication of the kind of person capable of carrying out the duties of an executor for your estate.

Additionally, this person has to be available during probate. Distance and lack of ability may impact an executor’s ability to perform the necessary tasks. It may seem obvious, but this person has to outlive the estate holder. Use caution when choosing an executor around the same age. If a person near your age is most qualified, always choose a successor in case the first choice is unable to perform the necessary executor tasks.

2. Leaving an out-of-date will

Keeping a will up-to-date is incredibly important to a successful probate process. Creating a will for the first time is an important step in estate planning, but it’s not the last time to think about your future plans. Revisit your estate plan periodically throughout your life, about every two to three years.

A will must hold relevant information to streamline the probate process after a person’s death. Beneficiaries, inheritance plans, property division and other asset information needs to accurately reflect a person’s long-term planning. Major milestones and changes in financial holdings may prompt an update to your will throughout your lifetime.

3. Using template wills for complex estates

It may seem appealing to use a generic will template in creating an estate plan, but this is one of the most common errors in estate planning for individuals with complex estates. There’s no one size fits all estate plan for all individuals. Careful planning and expertise are essential to ensuring proper execution of an estate after a person’s death.

Don’t cut corners in planning for the long-term future of your estate and family needs. Avoid these and other common mistakes by consulting legal and financial experts to craft the correct estate plan for your circumstances.

Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.
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