Creating a will is a crucial step in ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you pass away. However, the process is not without its pitfalls, and it is important to be mindful of common mistakes to avoid when making a will.
One effective way to steer clear of these errors is by seeking professional guidance from a paralegal will service, which can provide informed and knowledgeable assistance in navigating the complexities of estate planning. Let’s delve deeper into some common mistakes to avoid, and the role of an informed paralegal in this process.
What Should Be Included in a Will
A well-structured will is essential for ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your passing. Some of the key factors include:
- Appointing a trustworthy and capable personal representative and trustee who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes.
- If you have minor children, appointing a guardian who will take care of them in the event of your passing.
- Naming your beneficiaries, whether individuals or organizations. Give thought to not only whom you wish to give your estate to, but in what proportion (i.e., what percentage or how much).
- Detailing specific bequests, such as sentimental items or heirlooms, including who will care for your pet(s), if you have any, when you pass away.
- Addressing your financial responsibilities by specifying how outstanding debts and potential estate taxes should be handled.
- Including your preferences for funeral or burial arrangements.
- Providing instructions regarding your digital assets and outline contingencies in case beneficiaries or your personal representative and trustee predecease you.
- Including a “no contest” clause if you believe there may be those who will be unhappy with your decisions set out in your Will. This can often discourage challenges to the Will.
- Ensuring the document is properly witnessed and commissioned.
- Keeping your will in a secure location and informing your personal representative and trustee of its whereabouts.
- Remembering to review and update your will periodically to reflect life changes such as marriages, divorces, births, deaths or significant financial developments.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Whether you are just beginning to plan your estate or considering revisions to an existing plan, understanding these common mistakes can help you to navigate the process with greater confidence and to ensure that your wishes are carried out.
Not Seeking Legal Advice
DIY will kits and online templates might seem convenient and cost-effective, but they often lack the legal expertise required to address your specific needs and circumstances. An experienced legal professional can help you navigate the complex requirements and ensure your will is legally sound. Furthermore, DIY will kits and online templates are generic and often do not address the legislative requirements in force for the proper execution of a will.
Failing to Update
Life is constantly changing, and so should your will. Many people create a will and then forget about it for years, assuming it remains valid. Significant life events like marriage, divorce, the birth of children, or acquiring substantial assets should prompt a review and update of your will to reflect your current wishes accurately.
Ambiguity in Wording
Using unclear or ambiguous language in your will can lead to disputes and confusion for your personal representative and trustee, so much so that it can lead to the requirement for Court involvement. It is crucial to be precise and specific when setting out the distribution of your assets. Vague terms like “fair share” can lead to disagreements.
Neglecting to Name a Personal Representative and Trustee
The personal representative and trustee of your will is responsible for carrying out your wishes, paying off debts, and distributing assets. Failing to appoint a capable and willing personal representative and trustee can result in delays and complications in the probate process. It is essential to choose someone you trust and to discuss their role with them beforehand.
While you have the right to distribute your assets as you see fit, it is essential to consider the potential emotional impact of unequal distributions among your beneficiaries. Unequal bequests can lead to family discord and feelings of betrayal. If you have a specific reason for unequal distribution, it is important to set this out in your Will.
Not Considering Tax Implications
Estate taxes and inheritance laws can significantly impact the distribution of your assets. Failing to consider these implications in your will can result in your beneficiaries receiving less than you intended. Consider such financial vehicles as tax-free savings account or RRSPs/RRIFs where you can name the beneficiary(ies). Doing so will get the money into the hands of your beneficiary(ies) quickly as these types of financial vehicles (where you can name a beneficiary) do not form part of your will and do not form part of probate when you pass away.
The Role of a Paralegal in Providing Will Services
Paralegals can provide expertise, attention to detail, and a comprehensive understanding of legal requirements. Here is how they help prevent errors:
Legal Knowledge and Expertise
Paralegals who specialize in estate planning have in-depth knowledge of the relevant laws and regulations. They stay updated with changes in the law and understand the intricacies of creating a legally valid will. This knowledge helps them guide clients in making informed decisions.
Paralegals work closely with clients to understand their unique circumstances and wishes. They prepare wills to suit individual needs, ensuring that all assets, beneficiaries, and special requests are accurately documented. This customization minimizes the risk of misunderstandings or disputes later on.
Documentation and Formalities
Paralegals ensure that all necessary legal formalities are followed when drafting a will. This includes correctly identifying and documenting assets, obtaining required signatures and witnesses, and adhering to legal requirements. Mistakes in these areas can render a will invalid.
Paralegals can assist in designating beneficiaries accurately, including contingent beneficiaries. Failing to name beneficiaries or specifying their shares clearly can lead to disputes or unintended consequences.
Minimizing Tax Implications
Paralegals are aware of tax laws related to estate planning. They can help structure the will to minimize tax liabilities for the estate and beneficiaries, preserving more of the assets for heirs.
Personal Representative and Trustee Selection
Paralegals provide guidance on selecting a personal representative and trustee who is trustworthy and capable of carrying out your wishes effectively. This helps prevent mismanagement of assets or conflicts among family members.
Paralegals help clients plan for unforeseen events, such as the death of a beneficiary or the need for a guardian for minor children. These contingencies are essential to cover all potential scenarios.
In the complex world of estate planning, seeking guidance is paramount to ensuring that your will accurately reflects your intentions and adheres to the legislative requirements of your jurisdiction. For assistance in preparing a will that secures your family’s future, reach out to AzPerLegal Services today. Contact us now to schedule a consultation and take the first step in protecting your legacy.