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Writing a will

Most Common Mistakes When Writing a Will

While all last wills are unique, there are some common mistakes when writing a will that can be avoided. When conversing with many individuals who possess a will, we discussed many concerns that appear to be universal.

Not Understanding the Plan

Too often clients have left their estate planner/attorney having signed a Last Will claiming, “I have no idea what I just signed”.  Estate planning attorneys reported that attorneys said they believed a high percentage of the last will estate plans they prepared were not fully implemented because their clients didn’t understand the details of the last will that were documented.  Frankly speaking, they were intimidated, overwhelmed, and were not thinking clearly under the pressure to make such serious final decisions.  They were spending a lot of money and could not think in a relaxed state of mind.

Why So Many Have Resorted to Online Will Making Programs

One of the benefits of doing a Last Will and Testament online is the lack of pressure.  Even more importantly is to find an online program that gives you the ability to change and update your will and not pay attorney’s fees for every change.  Circumstances constantly change throughout life and those must be updated in a Will.  

Here are Some Benefits of Creating an Online Will:

(All online will programs are developed by estate attorneys to ensure compliance with all essential criteria for creating a legally valid will.)

Accessibility:

Online wills can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.  This also allows for easy updates and modifications as circumstances change.

Convenience:

Creating a will online typically involves user-friendly interfaces and step-by-step guidance. This makes the process more straightforward and convenient compared to traditional methods.

Cost-effectiveness:

Free online will making programs eliminate the need for expensive legal fees associated with traditional will drafting.

Time-saving:

With online wills, there’s no need to schedule appointments with lawyers or wait for paperwork to be processed.  Consequently, this saves valuable time during the estate planning process.

Security:

Reputable online platforms employ encryption and other security measures to protect sensitive personal information, ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of your will.

Storage options:

Many online will services like The U.S. Will Registry, partner with online storage programs, minimizing the risk of loss or damage to your estate planning documents.

Accessibility for loved ones:

By storing your will online, you can ensure that your designated beneficiaries and executors can easily access the document when needed, reducing potential complications during estate settlement.

Flexibility:

Online wills often allow for customization to suit your specific needs and preferences, providing flexibility in tailoring the document to reflect your unique circumstances and wishes.

More Common Mistakes When Writing a Will:

    • Not Keeping Your Will Current

Outdated Beneficiary Designations 

Many people are unaware they cannot designate who inherits certain assets in a will.  Certain assets have separate beneficiary designation forms that determine who inherits those assets. These assets include retirement accounts, annuities, and life insurance.  Failure to update those beneficiary designations means an asset may go to a parent, sibling, ex-spouse, stepchild, or even a deceased person because that’s what you put on the form years ago when you first opened the account.  It may be possible that someone who you would currently want to receive that inheritance would be inadvertently excluded because they were born or married into the family after you completed the beneficiary form. 

Make certain you review your beneficiary designations after every major life change every year.

  • Failing to Update Asset Ownership

You might own some assets in your own name and others in a joint title with your spouse, an adult child, or someone else. Some assets might be in limited partnerships, trusts, or other vehicles.

Just like beneficiary designations, these too need to be reviewed. Has something changed in your situation or the laws? Be sure to review your plans to make sure they are current.  

  • Not Updating Powers of Attorney 

Powers of attorney should be included in every estate plan. One Power of Attorney (POA) for financial matters and one for medical direction (often called an ‘advance medical directive’). The Power of Attorney documents are two separate documents. It is not uncommon to have the same POA for both.

  • Failure to Fund Revocable Trusts

Many estates include a revocable trust, also known as a living trust. In order for a revocable trust to have any value, it must be funded.  Assets must be moved over, and legal title must be transferred to the Trust. The assets owned by the trusts do avoid probate, yet in general, it cannot really save an individual any more taxes than a Will.

  • Where the Original Copy of Your Will is Stored

Too often a will is written and then carefully stored in a ‘safe’ place.   That safe place has left too many families in frantic treasure hunt mode trying to locate where that ‘safe’ place might be.  So, what are ‘Safest Places” to store a will?  Here are some thoughts to consider when storing a will. 

In your home…what if:

          • Someone else is cleaning out your belongings when settling your estate and inadvertently discards it? 
          • Access is too easy, the wrong person (who may have been disinherited) gets their hands on it and it mysteriously disappears.  
          • A family member has no idea that your will is in a file folder (Folder, what name is the folder?), strong box (where is the strong box?, or in your freezer (Freezer, where did you get that idea?).  
          • What if you have a fire or flood in your home and no one knows your will was destroyed?  
          • If you keep your will in any kind of safe in your home, how will your loved ones get into the safe? 

With your attorney:

When you use an attorney to write your will, he/she may keep the original, or a duplicate.  They may even keep a digital copy (not accepted in most states).  Years later you update you will.  Now two attorneys have copies of your will.  Most attorneys won’t hold an original, due to liability.  The few that do, may charge a fee.

          • If your family can only remember the first attorney, then that will be the Will that prevails, even though it was not intended to be.
          • What if your family forgets who the attorney is?  
          • What if the attorney passes before you do?  

Safe Deposit Box

          • While a safe deposit box sounds safe and secure, it is difficult to get access to right after you pass.  Once the bank is aware of your passing, they may secure the box and require a court order to open it.

With a Friend or Relative

          • Since life is so uncertain, it is certainly not guaranteed that your friend or relative will out-live you. What if you don’t speak to that friend or relative anymore?   What if they pre-decease you?  How will your children know ‘which’ friend or relative?

Best Place to Store a Duplicate Copy of a Will

iCloud Storage

          • While the original copy of a will cannot be stored online, it’s advisable to ensure that a duplicate of your will is securely stored on the internet, especially since all attorneys and financial advisors commonly use online storage for safeguarding critical documents.
          • Notably, SideDrawer.com collaborates with The U.S. Will Registry, providing complimentary iCloud storage services for this purpose.  Online storage necessitates a designated list of individuals granted permission to access the will’s duplicate, contingent upon providing proper identification to the online platform.   
          • Storing a duplicate copy of a will in the iCloud provides secure, off-site backup with easy accessibility from any device. This ensures document safety and quick retrieval, facilitating the probate process and ensuring the testator’s wishes are honored.  In addition, only those listed as having permission are able to access the information once a death certificate and ID are presented.
  • Not Registering Your Will

The best place to store your original copy of a will remains uncertain.  All sources available have their pros and cons.  What is certain is that no matter where your original is stored, registering your will in The U.S. Will Registry assures you that you family will locate it when needed.

Online Will Registry

An online registry does not hold a copy of your will.  More importantly, it documents the location of the will.  The U.S. Will Registry does not disclose the contents unless presented with a death certificate and ID. Once received, the documentation is forwarded by the service to an attorney, who then releases the registered information to the family, ensuring that nothing is released prior to the individual’s passing.

The registration documents wherever your original or duplicate will be located. It also enables you to list who has the right to access your registered information. As you change the location of your will, or attorney, you are always able to update your registration.

Registration allows your will to remain private, yet accessible when needed. We issue a Registration Certificate with your registration, which you can keep in your records and store with your important papers. Most importantly, you should tell everyone that you are registered.  This simple safeguard greatly assures you the peace of mind.

Free Online Do it Yourself Wills

No matter what, don’t write your own will on your computer unless it’s a online program designed by attorneys.  Too often, people miss critical elements required for a will to be accepted by the courts when they attempt to draft one alone.  In addition, if you write your Last Will on your computer, it would be too easy for someone to alter it or even delete it. 

There are a few free online wills available that are very similar to the ones used by attorneys. Having an online will account allows you to take your time in a relaxed atmosphere and think clearly without pressure about what assets you have, and what your final wishes are. Most importantly, a good online program allows you to update your will anytime, without attorney fees, so that your wishes remain current.  

When Not to Use a Online Will Program

If you have complicated circumstances and you feel you need more guidance about, then you should most certainly seek legal guidance.  Many people will create an online will as a basic will to present as a basic guide to the attorney.  This gives a will owner time to think about many crucial decisions doing an online will while not under pressure. 

Conclusion:

Not being able to locate a will after losing a loved one leads to unnecessary legal fees and serious family disputes.  It leaves your loved ones with one last agonizing question, “Is there a will, (and then), where is it?”  While registration and iCloud storage of a will is a simple concept and process, it fulfills a critical need at a time when families are already emotionally torn.  Both are Free to public so there is no reason to not take advantage of both. 

Explore Comprehensive Last Will Management with The U.S. Will Registry

Discover our range of services: Free Will Creation, Free Will Registration, Missing Will Search, Free iCloud Storage and Free Death Notices, and Obituaries.
Create and Safeguard your will and ensure peace of mind.

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