It’s quite common these days for folks to simply hop on the internet and search for a simple will form. Fill in the blanks or pattern after they model, they reason, and they’ll soon be done with this whole estate planning thing once and for all.
I wish it was that easy. Frankly, I also resent the fact that things can be so complicated that you cannot even order your affairs, with any degree of confidence in your efforts, without hiring a professional. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a number of errors consistently with estate planning clients, and I’ll go through a few of these so hopefully you’ll not get snagged by any of them, regardless of how you proceed with your estate planning needs. A big problem stems from people mistakenly thinking they do not even need an estate plan. This is so often not even close to being true.
Simple Will Form That Isn’t
With the assumption that people are aware of the need to plan, the next major problem that often crops up is when folks just don’t know how their assets will pass upon their death. If you don’t know what the default plan is, how can you really plan around it? Sure, you can just attempt to jot down your desires. However, there are sometimes legal impositions that actually limit your ability to dictate what happens to your stuff when you die. It’s important to know what a judge would do to and for your family, so you can really determine how you want to customize things for your family.
The next big problem can be lethal to your estate plan. Sloppy drafting is the ultimate death sentence to your final wishes. With the avalanche of templates, models, forms, software, and blank forms proliferating faster than Baby Boomers can reach retirement age, there are legions of problems with the language that ends up in final documents. Even aside from the fact that there are state-specific laws that govern people and property upon death, you can be working 100% with correct law, but still draft your way out of your preferences with conflicting and superseding provisions. Worst of all, you may not even realize you’ve done. This is especially true when you do not understand everything you’re doing and the simple will form provides a number of options. Throw in some techno-legal jargon, and you could be setting in motion all sorts of final wishes without even realizing it!
Simple Will Form That’s Too Simple
Let’s assume that you prefer to keep the government from confiscating much of what you worked your whole life for. How will that simple will form assist in this arena? Are there any tax advantages to the document you’re about to execute? Are there simple things you could do, but you’re about to leave money on the table simply because you don’t know what you don’t know? What asset protection features might you be able to obtain through the use of one or more trusts? I could go on and on with possibilities, but the bottom line here is that the “home-grown” estate plan often suffers from the tendency to just rush into things and strive for completion, without careful shopping as to options.
Even if you will do just fine with a will, consider the following example. It doesn’t matter that you might not refer to it as a “testimonium,” the fact of the matter is that you would probably notice it was missing if it wasn’t a part of your simple will form. But what about the “attestation?” Do you even know what that is? It’s entirely conceivable that your form may not include it. However, using it, where applicable, could save your loved ones a lot of pain when you’re gone. So, you see, it’s also possible that your simple will form could be a bit too simple to serve you well.
Simple Will Form Can’t Do This
Another common problem that occurs with the use of a simple will form is when people fail to appreciate the importance of monitoring their newly-created estate plan over time. Your simple will form may be able to help you put together a will, for better or worse depending on the quality of the template, but it will not be able to coach you on life events that can have a radical impact on your estate plan. Likewise, it will not be there to stay in touch, or provide an annual consultation just to give your estate planning docs a check-up. Just keep in mind that there are a whole host of life changes that can uproot your estate plan, whether it’s birth, death, divorce, marriage, inheritance, incapacity, and so on.
Now obviously these aren’t the only mistakes people make, they’re simply some of the most common I’ve observed. However, there are several others that can be even more costly. And, of course, if you don’t know how to dodge the bullets I’ve already shared, using a simple will form to draft a set of legally binding instructions to handle everything you’ve worked your whole life for can be like tap-dancing on landmines.
I hope you found this Simple Will Form information helpful, and I invite you to pick up my Free Consumer Briefing Advisory Report and complimentary “Audio Sessions” while it’s still available.
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