Preserve a Lifetime of Hard Work through a Carefully Crafted Will
The will and probate attorneys at SM&P would be the first to tell you that you need a will. However, do not let the panic surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic rush you into making a will that is not well contemplated. To do so would defeat the purpose of your will, which is to ensure that your last wishes to protect and express affection towards your loved ones are carried out precisely as you envision.
According to SM&P attorney Melanie Webre, a carelessly drafted document could, instead, accidentally disinherit someone or void the entire document, which could bring heartache and unexpected costs to your heirs.
What is the Cost of a Will?
Although forms are available online at low cost for those who want to do it themselves, retaining an attorney is usually well worth the extra expense. The cost of a carefully thought-out will can start as low as $750 if the level of distribution is modest and there are no individual bequests.
A simple will, healthcare directive, and financial power of attorney might cost $1,500. However, if you want to leave a watch to Betty, the farm to cousin John, and set up a trust for the care of Wilber, your potbellied pig, a retainer will be involved.
Aspects to Take into Account when Drawing Up Your Will
Whether you do it yourself or hire professional help, consider these potential mistakes:
- Believing that the will you made years ago is adequate. Circumstances may have changed drastically since you made that will. Have your attorney go over it with you and make updates, if necessary.
- Including your funeral directives within the will. Your will might not be read until well after your funeral. Send funeral information to the appropriate people separately so that it can be acted upon in time.
- Failing to include all assets. Often, people forget to consider digital assets such as photos or letters stored on computers or small financial assets such as old savings bonds or a few shares of stock. If they are not listed, heirs may not know to look for and claim them.
- Not naming an executor in your will. If you neglect to do this, the court will name one for you and it may be someone you would not have chosen yourself to administer your estate. You also need to choose a back-up executor in case your original choice is not available at the time of your death to administer your estate because that person has passed away before you, has significant health issues, or is just otherwise unavailable to administer your estate.
- Not securing the original copy of your will in a safe place known to your executor. An executor’s job is demanding as it is. Don’t make it more complicated.
- Failing to explain certain aspects of your will that might cause hard feelings among your heirs. For example, why did you designate your youngest child to be the executor when your oldest child is a CPA? The oldest child could be hurt and resentful unless you explain that her younger sister has more experience with special-needs adults and could therefore be better equipped to deal with the special circumstances involving their third sibling, who has Down syndrome. Do not assume your heirs can read your mind.
- Being too specific about assets. For example, be careful about listing very specific stocks that may or may not be in your portfolio at your death. The same would go for vehicles, furniture, and other assets.
- Not being specific enough. If you have family antiques or other assets that all your heirs would enjoy owning, be explicit about them and how they should be divided. This could even be decided before your death during a family meeting and then committed to writing.
- Failing to take into account the required number of witnesses. This varies from state to state. Your attorney will ensure that this requirement is fulfilled, even during a time of social-distancing.
- Using or creating the appearance of using drugs or alcohol while drawing up your will. During the stress of lockdown, this could be a legitimate concern and lead to someone contesting your will. Do not give them that ammunition.
- Omitting debts and how they are to be discharged. If debts are not included, a legal dispute could easily erupt among the heirs.
Whether you are facing medical problems or are in perfect health, it is never too early to draw up a will. If you are ready to make or update your will, let the attorneys at SM&P help you consider all the details that will ensure your heirs face your passing with one less heartache. Please contact us today to schedule a consult or meeting.