Every adult should have a will as part of their estate plan. Unfortunately, creating a comprehensive will is not a priority for most people. Many people simply put it off or they assume that having a standard, generic will in place will suffice.
In either case, loved ones left behind could wind up confused, unsure and possibly embroiled in legal battles regarding your wishes and property, especially under the following circumstances.
- You don’t have one, or no one can find it. If you don’t have a will, the state will determine how to distribute your property. Even if you do have a will, the courts will make these decisions if no one can find it.
- You haven’t updated it recently. Things change over time. People have kids, pass away, get married, get divorced, and go through experiences that change their views on religion, medical care and asset distribution. As such, you should update your will every few years or after a significant life event.
- You include surprising information or directions without explanation. Revealing information to unsuspecting loved ones can create chaos and contention, especially when you do not provide any background or context. Beneficiaries can challenge the veracity of the information and possibly question your state of mind.
- You created it without legal guidance. Having a will and updating it regularly will typically eliminate confusion, as long as the document is valid and enforceable. Without legal guidance, you risk including illegal clauses, failing to have witnesses when you sign it or otherwise creating a document that the courts ultimately set aside.
Having a will is a critical first step in protecting yourself and your wishes. However, you should also make sure it is:
- Legally enforceable
Taking these simple steps can allow you to create a valid will that accurately reflects your wishes and provides critical guidance to the courts and your loved ones.