Six Huge Mistakes People Make With Their Will

huge mistakes people make with their will

Do you have your will completed? Whether you are young, old, married or single, a completed will is extremely important. But because this legal document is so complicated many of us put off getting it done. Or we make an effort to get our will done but then make a number of mistakes in the process.

By completing your will you are in control of how things will be done on your behalf. If you do not complete this document your children, property and finances will be dealt with based upon where you live and what the law dictates. And, keep in mind, those laws can change at any time.

Mistakes People Make With Their Will

Forgetting to Keep Your Documents Up To Date

Forgetting to keep your will up-to-date is one of the biggest mistakes most people make.

A recent example of this is the will written by Philip Seymour Hoffman. It was written in October 2004, and never updated. He died February 2, 2014. When he wrote his will in 2004 he was living with, but not married to, Marianne O’Donnell and their one year old son, Cooper. But his circumstances were quite different when he died 10 years later. By that time he and Marianne were the parents of three children. However, they never did get married, and actually were separated when he died.

The will he had written in 2004 designated that the bulk of his estate go to Marianne, as they were together then. He had also setup a trust fund for their son Cooper.

Unfortunately he did not update his will when his two daughters were born or when he and Marianne separated. So there were no trusts left for his girls and now Marianne is left to deal with the will, the courts and the taxation of the estate.

Another time that many people forget to update their will is when:

  • their spouse dies or when they get divorced
  • their executor dies
  • their beneficiaries die
  • their financial status changes

This is definitely something you do not want to procrastinate on, because circumstances can change in an instant.

Hiding the Documents

The second biggest mistake that people make with their will is that they hide it and forget to tell anyone where it is. If your will is prepared by a lawyer they will keep a copy. You may either put your copy in a safety deposit box at your bank, or you may choose to keep it at home.

Quite often people do keep it at home but they hide it and no one knows where it is when they need it.

When you write your will you will designate an Executor. As soon as you do that, tell your Executor where they can find your will.

Not Finishing What You Started

People will meet with their lawyer to begin putting their will together, but they forget to finalize it. This can happen when your lawyer asks you for information that you have to go home and find. Or it can happen when you are given a list of questions that you need to make decisions on.

You take the list home figuring that you will work on it, but then life gets in the way, you get busy and you forget. Before you know it a year has gone by and your will is still incomplete.

Choosing the Wrong Person as Your Executor

Choosing the wrong person as your executor can potentially lead to huge problems after you die. The responsibilities of an executor are quite extensive and cannot be taken lightly. Because this role involves so much work you may wish to designate two executors, or you may wish to designate your lawyer to be your executor.

And always ask the person before you designate them as an executor to ensure that they will be okay to complete all of the necessary work on your behalf.

Skipping Important Details

Your will may be simple or quite complicated, depending of course on your personal circumstances. Do you have children and grandchildren that you would like to leave your assets to? Perhaps brothers and sisters as well? Or will you leave all of your remaining assets to a charity?

You need to be very specific when you are drafting your will. If you have tangible assets that you want to distribute, such as jewellery, you need to specify who gets what. If you are leaving money you need to specify how much goes to each person or charity.

You can and should, also include details about your funeral.

Choosing the Wrong Beneficiaries

As you prepare your will be very careful when it comes to choosing your beneficiaries, and never allow yourself to feel pressured into choosing someone in particular. Yes, you may be in a situation where your children are sitting and waiting for your money, but you would rather leave your money to your favorite charity. If that is what you want to do, then do it.

Your will is your own private business, and other then asking your executor if they will in fact be your executor, no one other than your lawyer, and if applicable, your spouse, needs to know the exact details of your will.

Of course, if you have a spouse and\or  young children that you are supporting financially, it is definitely best that you provide for them via your remaining assets or through a life insurance policy.

Over to You

Of course not having a will at all is definitely the number one mistake. How about you? Is your will completed? Looking back, do you think you made any mistakes?


    • Tanya @ Eat Laugh Purr

      Tanya @ Eat Laugh Purr 05/06/2014 6:24 p.m. #

      The Phillip Hoffman Seymour situation is so sad and unfortunate. I admit that I don't have will and it's something I've put off because I'm single. But there are still certain things that I want to make sure happen and the only way to do that is with a will. Another thing to add to the to-do list! I hope to have many, many more years but you never know.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 05/07/2014 11:38 a.m. #

        Of course I hope you have many many more years too Tanya! I pray that we all do.

        But, as you said, we just never know. It does scare me sometimes, but you are right, just one more thing to add to the to do list.

        Hope you have a great week!

    • Corina Ramos

      Corina Ramos 05/07/2014 2:13 p.m. #

      Ugh. I haven't even thought about this. I told myself I would do this when I turn 50 but I know I'm playing Russian Roulette there.

      Thanks for sharing these tips with us. These are going to be very helpful when I sit down to finally put ours together.

      I just hope I don't have to use it for a very long time :).

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 05/07/2014 5:01 p.m. #

        It is quite normal to put it off Cori, but risky when family is involved. It is just another one of those things that we all need to get done, and as you say, hopefully not need for a very long time.

    • Tonya Rapley

      Tonya Rapley 05/09/2014 5:05 p.m. #

      You know, thus has been on my mind a lot lately. This and a power of attorney. Although I'm turning 30 next month I've been upping my retirement and investments. I have quite a good amount of money accumulating and for the first time ever have some type of net worth. I need to establish a will as soon as possible. I'm also going to speak with my parents to make sure they have updated theirs. Thanks for this great post Sicorra!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 05/11/2014 3:20 p.m. #

        Hi Tonya,
        Yes, you are right, a power of attorney is equally important and everyone should have one. Good for you for getting your finances all topped up. It is an exciting feeling, isn't it?
        Thanks for stopping by!

    • Jan

      Jan 05/19/2014 10:16 p.m. #

      Absolutely DO NOT forget your Powers of Attorney. You need one for health and one for financial. What happens if you are in an accident and do not die, but are in a coma or hospitalized for a while? Your will is useless in this case. You have a stroke and cannot speak or move? Your will is useless. You get dementia? Your will is useless. You need Powers of Attorney in all these cases so someone you trust can look after your financial concerns and also help you with health matters. People forget that these things happen and you need to have Powers of Attorney in place or the government will step in and drive your family up the wall with regulations. Both of my parents had strokes at age 80. My mother had her Powers of Attorney in place, so I could help her. Her speech and memory were affected, so I was able to help her because she had told me about them before and where they were. My dad did not have his power of attorneys in place, nor did he have a will. He would always talk about getting them done, but never did. Thankfully his speech, that he lost when he had the stroke, recovered and his mind was not affected so I had to take him to a lawyer after to get him to finally get his will and powers of attorney. If he had lost the ability to speak for good and if his mind had been affected, I would have not been able to do anything! The government would have stepped in to run things, not the way he wanted, but the way they wanted. Think about it - you do not want this to happen to you or to your family.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 05/22/2014 10:15 a.m. #

        You are absolutely right! Everyone does need a Power of Attorney too. Since this post was solely about having your will done, a post about the importance of a Power of Attorney might be done next. Thanks for commenting!

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