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5 potential last will and testament mistakes

On Behalf of | Mar 13, 2024 | Wills and Trusts

If you’re like many people in California, you might occasionally think about what you will want to leave your loved ones when you die. You might also wonder whether you will ever be a beneficiary in another person’s will. Perhaps you already have an estate plan of your own in place that includes a last will and testament.

While many people have meager estates, others have amassed great wealth, which makes the last will and testament process a bit more complex, especially when there are multiple heirs or beneficiaries that are slated to receive an inheritance. In the past, there have been numerous problems associated with wills.

Last will and testament issues you’ll want to avoid

The following list includes common errors California estate owners, as well as others throughout the country, often make when crafting a last will and testament:

  • Failure to adhere to state laws regarding execution of a last will and testament
  • Neglecting to update a signed will
  • Forgetting to name beneficiaries for assets not included in the will
  • Not listing instructions for inheritance of digital assets
  • Intestacy (dying without a last will and testament)

Each of these mistakes can have far-reaching implications that can cause delays or disputes during probate. It is especially important to make sure you have listed beneficiaries on retirement accounts or other non-probate assets, and that you include instructions regarding how to distribute intellectual property and other digital assets.

A word about intestacy

If you die without executing a last will and testament, your estate becomes intestate. If you did not sign a will before you died, your estate must pass through a probate court. A probate court judge will then determine who will inherit your assets. However, the beneficiary or beneficiaries the court chooses may not align with what your personal wishes would have been.

To avoid this type of situation, it is best to execute a last will and testament, regardless of your age or income level. You might even have assets that are sentimental in value as opposed to financially valuable. To ensure that such items are given to a person you would want to have them, you must list the assets and a chosen beneficiary in a will or place the item in a trust.

Don’t forget to update documents

It’s all well and good if you execute a last will and testament. However, if you fail to periodically review and update it as needed, your loved ones and beneficiaries may encounter legal problems when the time comes to administer your estate. For example, you might list a spouse as a beneficiary, then later get divorced and remarry someone else.

If you fail to update the will, the first spouse will still inherit your assets, even if that is not what you would have wished. Under California estate laws, if your will is valid, then it remains in effect, even if you forgot to amend it as needed. While there are online resources to create and update your own will, it is always best to seek guidance from someone with experience in this legal realm.