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Five Mistakes to Avoid When Preparing Your Will

There are a number of items to consider when you prepare your Will.  Here are some common mistakes you should be careful to avoid:

1. Not including your entire estate—If you only list certain assets to go to certain people, you may overlook some assets or not include property you acquire in the future. Be sure your will includes a “residue” section, so that assets missed by lists and percentages are caught.  Furthermore, if you make no specific bequests, then the residue section controls 100% of your estate.

2. Not including contingent distributions—Naming beneficiaries (those you want to receive your estate) may be fairly straightforward, since you will likely name your spouse, children, or other relatives.  However, you should also plan for what happens if a beneficiary dies before you.  Your overall plan will serve you well over time and cover numerous scenarios if you include one or two layers of contingency planning.

3. Not including an alternate personal representative—Contingencies may come into play again, so be sure to name an alternate personal representative to administer your estate if your first choice is unavailable after your death.

4. Not including a guardian for your children who are minors or disabled—If you forget this step, your children will not be orphans on the street, but a court will appoint a guardian based on someone else’s wishes, with potential disputes within a family. The best route is to name a guardian for your children, and don’t forget to include one or more alternate guardians in case your first choice is unavailable.

5. Not including a trust for loved ones—A trust can manage and distribute your estate without giving it to your beneficiaries outright. If your children are young, you may want their inheritance to stay in trust until they become older and more responsible, even beyond the age of 18.  Furthermore, you may want inheritance for your grandchildren to go into trust, either for a dedicated purpose or as a contingency if their parent (your child) dies before you.  Also, in some cases, a trust for your spouse may be a good idea, rather than the inheritance going to him or her outright.

The attorneys at Christenson Johnson can help you avoid these mistakes.  We can advise you about numerous options in wills, trusts, and comprehensive estate planning, and then prepare documents to reflect your wishes.