Making A Will: 4 Big Mistakes People Make

You want to provide for your family after you've gone, but if you take the wrong steps when crafting your will, it can end up destroying the family and worse. These are the four biggest mistakes people make when making out a will. The information provided here is for general information only and should not be used as legal advice.

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4 Big Mistakes People Make When Making Out A Will

  1. Not leaving a proper will. A handwritten note will only result in suspicion and arguments. Fill out a complete will that follows the guidelines set by your state so there's no question about your intentions.
  2. Not updating your will. If your financial situation changes, if you get married, or as your children age, you'll need to update your will. Don't put this off, as your family is counting on you.
  3. Trusting the wrong people. Only name an executor or guardian that you trust, and who you've spoken to extensively about the job. You won't be around to check up on them.
  4. Doing it yourself. Creating a full estate plan, including a living will, power of attorney, and division of assets, is a complicated task. Find an attorney who can help you get things right.

Do I Need To Make A New Will Every Couple Of Years Even If Nothing Has Changed?

It's a good idea to look over your will periodically to make sure everything is up to date. If you've undergone major life changes, such as having children or getting married, it might be a good idea to draft an entirely new will. But if only minor things have changed, you can add a codicil to your will, a simple addendum that will cover the new items you wish to include. That should save you time and money if the bulk of your will is still valid.

Typical Costs For A Funeral

Funeral Element Median Cost In 2017
Professional service fees $2,100
Transfer of remains $325
Embalming $725
Preparation of body $250
Viewing $425
Funeral Ceremony $500
Hearse $325
Family Transport $100
Programs and death certificate $160
Metal Casket $2,400
Total $7,360

If you and your partner aren't married, and you want to leave them your assets, it's critical to draft a will to ensure they are taken care of. Instead of a joint will, it may be wise to create separate wills that each provide for one another. The same is true for same-sex couples. You don't want changes in the law that are out of your control to affect what happens to your partner after you're gone. Consult a lawyer to navigate any difficult aspects of estate planning, and create a complete will for same-sex couples.

The Most Expensive States To Die In

Rank State Average Funeral Cost Average End-Of-Life Care Cost
1 Hawaii $11,408 $21,807
2 California $8,284 $15,835
3 Alaska $7,993 $15,278
4 New York $7,968 $15,231
5 Massachusetts $7,865 $15,034
6 Maryland $7,847 $14,999
7 Connecticut $7,847 $14,999
8 Oregon $7,737 $14,790
9 Rhode Island $7,488 $14,313
10 New Jersey $7,367 $14,081

What Is A Typical Cost To Pay An Executor?

Each state has different guidelines for executor compensation. Some states have rates specified as a percentage of the size of the estate, while others merely have guidelines and no requirements. If your state has no requirements, it's important to discuss with your attorney and family what you feel is a proper amount. If it's left to be decided after you pass, there may be arguments between the executor and beneficiaries regarding what "reasonable" compensation is.

Famous People Who Didn't Leave A Will

Name Estimated Fortune
Jimi Hendrix $80 million in music royalties
Pablo Picasso $250 million
Howard Hughes $2 billion
Bob Marley $100 million in music licensing fees
James Brown $100 million
Abraham Lincoln $85,000
Prince $300 million
Barry White $20 million

Was Walt Disney Cryogenically Frozen?

There have long been rumors that Walt Disney was fascinated by cryogenics, and that after his death, his body was frozen in the hopes that he could be brought back to life in the future. However, there is no known evidence to suggest that Disney was frozen. There is a death certificate that states he was cremated, and he has a plot at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California. There are many who believe Disney's body was actually preserved, but so far no evidence has been brought forth.

In Depth

Providing for your loved ones after you're gone is important, and if you do it wrong, it can result in vicious fights and bad blood. These are the four biggest mistakes people make when crafting a will.

Mistake #1: not leaving a proper will. Consider the case of Howard Hughes, who amassed a fortune by his death in 1976, but left behind no will, meaning he died "Inestate." The court battle over his estate lasted 34 years, and included dozens of relatives as well as a woman who claimed to have been his wife and a man who claimed Hughes promised him $156 million for giving him a ride in 1967. New evidence is still being found and people may still come forward to complicate this mess.

The problem isn't just in not leaving a will at all, but also in not leaving a legally binding one. Don't think you can just scribble something down and have that count. Each state has specific rules regarding witnesses and signatures, and if you don't follow them, your heirs can end up in probate court fighting it out just like Prince's or James Brown's. It won't matter that you've left a lot behind if the courts can't decide who gets what.

It won't matter that you've left a lot behind if the courts can't decide who gets what.

Understanding the tax implications of your will is important for anyone who has saved a lot of money, particularly if you fall under the estate tax. But even if you're not rich, arguments over assets can split families apart. Before making out your will, consult our full guide. Scroll down below this video to read it.

Mistake #2: not updating your will. You can make a will at age 18, but that doesn't mean you should stick with it. It's probably no longer important who gets your Sega Genesis when you die. If you get married, that could invalidate your previous will. And are your children included? It's a good idea to check up on this.

Take what happened with Frankie Lymon, the singer famous for the song "Why Do Fools Fall In Love?" He was married three times, one of which took place in Mexico, and neglected to get divorced from any of his wives. As a result, after his death, three different women came forward claiming to be his wife. Aside from the mistake of breaking marriage laws, he could have saved everyone a lot of trouble by making a new will naming his third wife the beneficiary of his estate.

Aside from the mistake of breaking marriage laws, he could have saved everyone a lot of trouble by making a new will naming his third wife the beneficiary of his estate.

Mistake #3: trusting the wrong people. In your will, you'll need to name individuals who will be in charge of managing your estate as it is divided up. One of these is the executor, who ideally is someone who can be trusted. But as plenty of cases have shown, executors have been known to steal from the deceased, or to mismanage funds before the family ever sees them.

If you have children, you'll also have to name a guardian. This should be discussed with that person as you're making the will, so they aren't just thrust into the role. The wrong guardian could poorly care for your child after you're gone, and relatives might fight over custody as a way of trying to get money.

Typically, the executor does get paid for his or her role because of the work involved. The probate or estates code of your state will dictate standard amounts, but it would be wise to discuss the amount with all parties involved so there are no surprises later on. These rules vary by state, so be sure you know how your area operates. Consult our full guide on wills, which can be found right on this page. Check it out below this video.

The probate or estates code of your state will dictate standard amounts, but it would be wise to discuss the amount with all parties involved so there are no surprises later on.

Mistake #4: doing it yourself. As you get older, you might need more than just a will. An attorney can walk you through a full estate plan, including a living will to dictate what you'd like to happen if you're in a coma. It's a good idea to understand the possible outcomes, and to assign power of attorney for when you're no longer able to handle your financial decisions.

Battles over power of attorney can be vicious. Harper Lee, the author famous for "To Kill A Mockingbird," shocked readers when she released another book, "Go Set A Watchman," after decades of inactivity. There were accusations that her attorney was taking advantage of her, and that she was manipulated into releasing the book. Make sure to pick someone you trust to handle your affairs, and select that person officially before it's too late.

You'll also need to dictate what should happen to your remains, and you can't be too specific. After baseball legend Ted Williams died in 2002, his body was to be cremated, but another signed document said he wanted to be frozen in biostasis. His head was removed from his body, the two sections stored in separate freezing tanks, and the head was damaged, while the company said it wasn't paid its full fee. In the end, no one was happy with what happened to him.

After baseball legend Ted Williams died in 2002, his body was to be cremated, but another signed document said he wanted to be frozen in biostasis.

We aren't lawyers, and this isn't legal advice, but if you really want your head frozen, do it right and find a good attorney, even one that doesn't specialize in cryogenic freezing. No matter what you want done after you pass, it's a good idea to check out our full guide to wills. Scroll down below this video to read it.

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