What should you NOT do with your Will? A Will is a very important tool in estate planning, and everyone needs one. If you have assets, debts, property of any kind, or anyone who depends on you for care or support, you have an estate and need an estate plan. A Will is just one small piece of estate planning, and you absolutely need one!
But a lot of people make common mistakes that can cost them and their loved ones in the long run.
Today we are going to discuss what NOT to do with your Will.
Don’t Fail to Make a Will
You need a Will. No matter who you are or what you have, you need to have a Will. We know thinking about your own demise doesn’t exactly give you the warm and fuzzies. But we also know that no matter who you are, you want to care for your loved ones the best way you know how. Leaving a Will behind for them is a beautiful way to do that. It tells them what you want and allows them to carry it out.
Don’t Fail to Finalize Your Will
We’ve all done it. We got the important paperwork together and in order, but never took the important final step.
Maybe you’ve met with your estate planning attorney, had the documents drafted, and even reviewed and approved the final documents. And that’s it. You did all that but never made the signing appointment. Well, we have important news for you. If your Will isn’t properly executed, it’s not valid. This means that if the unthinkable happened today, the Court cannot use your unsigned or improperly executed Will to administer your estate.
Finish strong! Set up the appointment and sign the documents. Once the Will is properly executed it is valid and can be used in Court to administer your estate.
Don’t Lose Your Will
You may have heard of the recent dispute between Aretha Franklin’s children and her partner. A document was found between couch cushions in her home and was submitted to the Court as a Will to override a previously executed Will. Eventually, after years, the Court did rule that this was a valid Will. Stored in the cushions of her couch.
Your Will is one of the most important documents you possess, and it needs to be in a safe place where it can be found and submitted to the Court for Probate. I think we can all agree that couch cushions are not the greatest place to store important documents. But neither is a junk drawer or somewhere in the middle of the huge pile of papers on your desk. You need to store your Will someplace safe and known to a trusted loved one.
Some people recommend a safe deposit box at the bank, others use a fireproof safe in their home, and some keep all their important documents in a binder together. The most important piece here is that a trusted loved one knows about and has access to this location at the time of your death, because they will need to produce your original Will to the Probate Court for execution.
Don’t be Vague in Your Will
You’ve heard the expression, “Clarity is key.” It really is.
When naming beneficiaries, executors or personal representatives, or any other person or corporation in your Will, be as clear as possible. List each person by name, and if there are multiple people with similar names in your circle of influence be as specific as possible. Include the type of relationship (son, brother, friend, etc.) and date of birth, so there is no mistake as to who you meant.
Another way to provide clarity is to name successors to anyone who may predecease you or otherwise be unable to complete the duty or inherit the asset assigned. Listing backups is always a good idea.
Clarity is especially important in blended families. If you want a stepchild to receive a portion of your estate, you need to say it clearly. Georgia law does not recognize stepchildren as heirs, so you need to say it if you want it.
The same is true if you want to disinherit anyone and disallow them from receiving any portion of your estate. It may feel mean-spirited to put it in black and white, but it’s important to say exactly what you mean so your executor can comply with your wishes without doubt.
Don’t Think a Will is All You Need
Maybe you already have a Will and it’s crystal clear, you have it saved somewhere safe, and it’s fully and properly executed. Bravo! You are doing awesome and we are proud of you!
But a Will is just one piece of the estate planning puzzle. There are so many other documents, often called ancillaries, that fully flesh out your estate plan. Powers of Attorney, Guardianship, Trusts, and so many other documents work together to create a robust estate plan that helps your loved ones follow your wishes during times of incapacity and after death.
So, you may have a Will—which covers an important base. But do you have all the bases covered?
The estate planning professionals at Siedentopf Law are here to assist you in determining what tools are necessary to best implement your wishes during incapacity and after your death. Give us a call at 404-736-6066 or schedule a consultation through our website to discuss your estate plan today.