The Most Important Things to Consider When Preparing a Will

Elder Law
Jason Neufeld
July 21, 2020

Creating a will is an activity you would be hard-pressed to find on anyone's bucket list. In fact, preparing a will is something that many adults delay for decades. Because so many people put off the task of preparing a will, fewer than half of Americans have one. And without a will, your legacy may look entirely different than you envisioned during your living years. Below is a look at some important factors to consider when preparing a will and the key to ensuring your will reflects your wishes.

What is the purpose of preparing a will?

A will is a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding your children and your assets in the event of your death - its an essential component to all basic estate planning packages you’ll obtain from a Florida estate planning lawyer. The primary purpose of a will is to ensure that your property is distributed exactly as you wish if you pass away. Your will also serves a variety of other purposes, including the following:

  • Ensure your children and pets are cared for by the guardian(s) you designate
  • Specify exactly how and when your financial assets should be distributed
  • Confirm your preferred personal representative (executor), or the person who will handle your affairs after you die
  • Avoid the confusion, strife, and legal difficulties that could arise if you don't have a will

What are some things people tend to forget when preparing a will?

Even the most organized people can let some key points fall through the cracks when creating a will. The path to a comprehensive will begins with a checklist as well as knowledge of some items that are commonly neglected. Here are three things people tend to forget when preparing a will.

1) Digital assets

Some people forget about digital assets such as videos, digital images, and online presentations. Other people remember these items but then make the mistake of referencing their usernames and passwords in their will. Wills are public documents, so this mistake could potentially leave your private information exposed to anyone who comes across your will during the filing process. The best way to avoid this is to designate a person you trust to handle those accounts and make sure that individual has access to your credentials.

2) The need to update information

Your will should never be prepared in a vacuum. Changes in your life are inevitable and you need to make sure your will reflects those changes. For instance, if you recently remarried, you need to update your will to include your new husband as a beneficiary. Otherwise, your ex-husband could end up with your assets if you pass away. Generally speaking, it's a good idea to update your will whenever a major change occurs in your life.

3) Safe storage

Writing a will is a critical task. But storing your will in a safe location is also important. Examples of secure locations include safety deposit boxes, fireproof safes, and accordion folders placed in locking file cabinets. Once you have your documents securely stored, make sure you let at least two trusted people know where your will is stored and how to access it.

Can you prepare your own will?

Yes. You can prepare your own will. But there are many risks involved.  For starters, there is no simple formula for writing a will that the courts in your state will recognize. For example, not all states recognize oral wills and some states require multiple signatures for a will to be deemed legitimate:

"There isn't a pat answer I can give anyone, that 'here's what it takes to write your own will... Some states recognize oral wills; some don't. In some states, you have to have the will signed at the end and witnessed by two disinterested parties. But some states require three signatures." - Bill McLaoughlin, Business Law Professor at Otterbein University

As if the legal landscape were not complicated enough, you need to use the appropriate language when preparing a will. Using the wrong wording or omitting details have caused some of the biggest estate planning blunders of all time. For a multitude of reasons, many educators and estate planning experts agree that it is not wise to write your own will.

How can you make sure your will reflects your goals and wishes?

Preparing a will is an important step in the estate planning process. But simply drafting a will is not always enough to protect your estate and ensure that your wishes are carried out. You need to make sure that your will is comprehensive, up to date, and recognized as legal by the courts in your state.

The single best way to achieve these three goals is to work with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney. An attorney can help you create a comprehensive will that includes your liquid assets such as savings and bonds, as well as your illiquid assets like special antiques and jewelry. Your attorney will also make sure your will complies with your state guidelines and is written with clear language.

We encourage you to contact us today for confidential guidance on the preparation of your will. Our estate planning attorneys look forward to helping you prepare for the future.

Jason Neufeld
Jason is committed to assisting and protecting the most vulnerable members of society, through his substantial legal work with the elderly.