1. Not Signing the Will properly (and making the Will useless in the process):
Many people do not realize that if they do not sign their Will properly, their Will is rendered useless. While signing your Will may seem trivial, doing it improperly can end up costing you thousands of dollars in future attorneys fees when your family finds out that the Will is not able to be probated.
For example, many people do not have the right number of witnesses, or forget to sign their Will in front of a notary public. But the biggest mistake many people make when getting a form Will is not signing a Self-Proving Affidavit, which is a simple document that allows your Will to be probated without the need to find the witnesses and come back into court to testify as to your mental status.
2. Leaving Out Language Which Allows You to “Opt In” to Texas’ Consumer-Friendly Independent Administration System:
In Texas, you can add special language to your Will to create a very easy and favorable probate process (called an Independent Administration) for your family. However, most people who draft their own Will leave out their helpful language, costing their family both time and money.
Likewise, many people fail to note that they want their Independent Executor to serve without the need for a corporate surety bond. By forgetting to put this simple language into their Will, many people make it extremely challenging to find an executor who can meet the stringent requirements of most corporate bonding companies.
3. Not Naming a Guardian for Your Children:
Many Form Wills do not allow you to name a Guardian for your Children, which for many people is even more important than how they distribute their property. Failing to name a Guardian can create lots of family strife after your death, and can cause unnecessary stress for your children.
Many form Wills simply do not address this important issue, or do not allow families to customize their Guardianship Plan. For instance, many families may want their children to live with a Married Couple, or would not want certain relatives to be the Guardian over their children. By not being able to customize their Guardianship Plan, many people fail to fully protect their children
4. Having Only a Simple Will when a Trust would be more Appropriate:
Many People to not realize that their simple Will does not adequately meet their needs. In many situations, having a trust can help avoid costly probate procedures, high estate taxes, and the possibility of having immature children squander their inheritance. Trusts are much more customizable than Wills, and allow people with unique family situations, high wage earners, or those with special needs to have a fully-customized Estate Plan.
5. Improperly naming the Beneficiaries of life insurance policies and bank accounts:
We See Many People who do not correctly name their beneficiaries, allowing certain children/heirs to get more of their property than other children/heirs. This can create unequal distributions that they do not intend, but which can cause a great deal of family strife after their death. By only having a form Will, many people fail to coordinate their beneficiary designations properly with the rest of their Estate Plan.
What is the Best Way to Avoid these Mistakes?
While there are some major pitfalls associated with drafting your own Will, or using an online form, the good news is that all of these problems can be resolved by having an experienced Estate Planning Lawyers draft or revise your estate plan.
Not every attorney out there knows the intricacies of Estate Planning Law, and so it is important to engage attorneys who focus a large portion of their practice on Estate Planning.
At Cook & Gore, our Estate Planning Attorneys have experience drafting everything from simple Wills on up to complex tax-planned trusts. We can help you craft an Estate Plan that fits your unique situation, and which will avoid the common pitfalls mentioned in this brochure.