If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to see it, does it still make a sound?
And if that tree crushes a hiker who told no one of his will, is the will still carried out?
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Unless nobody knows of its existence and location, in which case there’s a wait—sometimes an endless one.
OK, enough with the puns (for the most part). Here are the most common errors well-intentioned people make when attempting to execute a will….
Where in the world is your will?
If the loved ones you leave behind cannot locate your will, it may as well never have existed. We get it: Who gets what when you pass isn’t exactly cocktail convo. But for the legitimacy of your legacy, share with a couple of confidantes where you store your will so your passing doesn’t lead to the ultimate scavenger hunt. Or better yet, store your will electronically and leave instructions as to how your family can access it.
The danger of the safety deposit box
Safety-deposit boxes are really safe. Like, so safe that if you reserve one in only your name, that box very likely will be inaccessible when you pass away. Even if you have a designated executor to handle your estate, it could be weeks or months (depending on the state in which you reside) before the jaws of your financial institution are pried open.
Beneficiary rights alone don’t prevent probate
As the name implies, a “beneficiary designation” allows a person to designate beneficiaries for their financial accounts; think retirement account, life insurance policy, checking/savings account, etc. It is the simplest way to grant access to your financial accounts (which should complement your will) when you pass away, but that’s all it covers—your finances. It does not designate the beneficiaries of your personal belongings, your property/real estate or the guardianship of your kids, your pets, your artwork. You need other probate-avoidance documents for that.
…On that topic: name names
Assuming there is overlap between your beneficiary designations (financial) and those to whom you bequeath other assets, the names need match up exactly. So don’t list nicknames, don’t use shorthand—list only official birth names. Because if there are any discrepancies (including misspellings), the financial recipients always win. Dot your i’s, cross your t’s!
Keep current your affairs
Since few of us are equipped with an end-of-the-(literal)-road map, it’s important not just to create a will but to update it regularly. Why? New cars, new homes, new kids, new golf clubs, new spouses, new wardrobes for those new spouses, new grandkids—you get the picture. Unless, that is, you end up bequeathing old VCR tapes instead of new digital film downloads.
See the two pretty common themes here? Locating and updating. Create and maintain your will online with willing.com, and you’ll a) always know where to find it; and b) have easy access to updating it. And with willing.com, you can make unlimited changes for up to a year at no cost.
Of course, if you instead employ a brick-and-mortar law firm to create your will, you’ll pay a lot more and be at the whim of a lawyer’s schedule and pay for every change.
Estate plans begin at $69. To generate a personalized plan, give it a try here; start for free, and pay when you print and sign.