Mistakes to Avoid When Preparing a Will


Preparing a will can be an unpleasant process to think about but our team can make it much easier for the client. Not only does the notion of death add a great amount of stress to any situation, but it also requires itemizing property and determining how it will be assigned after death.  We can help the client navigate the process and ensure the will is up to the client's standards. Here are a few common mistakes that we see people make when it comes to the creation and updating of a will.

Mistakes to avoid when preparing a will

Not having a will

The largest mistake a person can make is not preparing a will. Since no one wants to think about their own death, people tend to avoid the issue. However, planning for the inevitable is important. Family, friends, and other loved ones will have a much easier time ensuring all personal and financial affairs are handled according to the written and valid will. Without a will set in place, loved ones may spend months or even years going through everything.

Not updating the will

After being created and becoming a valid legal will, periodic updates ensure the will’s directions proceed according to plan. Many changes can occur throughout a person’s lifetime:

  • Changes in the family
  • Sudden business developments
  • Births
  • Deaths
  • Divorces
  • Fluctuations in money and savings
  • Acquisitions of new property

However, based on these inevitable life changes, periodic updates to the will after creation help to better ensure the personal and financial affairs are dispensed accordingly.

Not remembering old age and disability

While most people do not want to think about growing old and eventually passing away, this is a common end for many. Health problems create long-term disability requirements, inevitably creating stressors for a person’s finances. During old age and poor health, important decisions must still be made.

To avoid this complication, consider making a living trust or appointing a power of attorney to make important life decisions. This can include the person in charge of finances, the person making important healthcare decisions and the person who will act as guardian to the children.

Not remembering to donate money

Remember the old adage, “there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes?” Well, they actually go hand-in-hand. When a person dies, their estate is taxed and the Internal Revenue Code indicates charitable donations up to $14,000 a year (per spouse) may be deducted from the estate tax.

In other words, charitable donations made to qualifying organizations can lower the estate tax by $28,000. Thus, making charitable donations not only helps save money but is a wonderful good deed.

Not selecting the correct person to act as executor for the estate

Sometimes the person who will make the best decisions is a person less emotionally involved in the situation. Though it may seem obvious to choose the surviving spouse, most responsible child, or trusted friend, in some instances, a less-emotionally involved the third party might be able to objectively handle the duties of administering the estate better.

Not hiring a financial or legal professional

While the standard estate and will forms exist online, if the estate includes complicated financials, hiring a legal or financial professional is really the best choice. These professionals have more knowledge about the complexities of the tax system, like how to transfer property of the family home, how to double-dip and save money on taxes, etc. Overall, based on the particular needs of the estate, an experienced tax attorney can provide the planning necessary for the estate.

We can help you effectively navigate the process

All in all, the will preparation process is an emotionally draining experience. While that reality may be daunting, it is crucial to have a will set up in the case of a tragic accident. As a result, preparing for it should be a deliberate and thoughtful process to avoid all sorts of potential legal problems.

Call (732) 449-0449 to schedule a consultation with Anthony J. Cafaro, P.C. in our Sea Girt office.

NOTE: This is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.