The biggest mistake you can make in estate planning is not having any sort of a plan at all. This is true in New York and around the country. Any will that you create is usually better than leaving no will at all. However, there are some common mistakes that you’ll want to avoid when you draw up your first will:
Mistake #1: Not signing the will properly
For wills to be valid, they must be signed in the presence of two witnesses who are not beneficiaries of the will. These witnesses must also sign the will after the will writer has signed it.
There are limited circumstances in which your will would still be valid without witnesses. However, a will without witness signatures is much more likely to be contested.
Mistake #2: Unclear descriptions of all property
Your will should communicate your wishes clearly so that even people who don’t know you can understand your intentions. For example, if you want to leave some family heirlooms to a beneficiary, describe the items rather than using a general term that could be subject to interpretation.
Another mistake people make when writing a will is forgetting to use a residuary clause. A residuary clause simply explains what to do with all remaining property that was not mentioned in your will.
Mistake #3: Failing to name an alternative executor
The executor of your will is the person who is responsible for ensuring that your instructions are carried out. A big mistake that a lot of people make is failing to name an alternative executor just in case the primary executor has passed away or cannot perform their job functions.
Consider getting help with your will
If you have a simple portfolio and just one or two beneficiaries, you may be able to write your will by yourself. However, people with complex family situations and large estates often need legal advice when writing a will.