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Common problems with do-it-yourself wills

For many Massachusetts residents, designing an estate plan is a difficult but necessary action that must be taken. In most cases, this plan will help their loved ones be able to carry out the person's wishes. However, there are mistakes that are often made in the preparation of wills that could result in emotional and expensive arguments that ultimately have results that differ from what the person desired.

One common mistake that many make is to use unclear wording. This problem mostly arises in wills that are prepared without legal guidance. For example, simply stating that certain possessions should go to the "family" could mean that eligible beneficiaries could include a child, their mother, father, siblings or anyone else considered part of the family. If there is no clear intention on who the assets should go to, arguments may ensue.

Another mistake that is often made is that many people do not update their wills. This is crucial if any major changes have occurred, including the death of the beneficiary or an increase or decrease in income. Similarly, copies of the old will should be destroyed and the family should be advised of the existence of the new one. Most people choose to keep their will in a safe place. Unfortunately, they do not tell their family members where it is, which ultimately delays the probate process.

While do-it-yourself wills are not necessarily bad, many people simply do not have the experience to properly prepare one. An estate planning attorney may be able to help a client create a will that accurately states which person should receive what assets and ensure that the language within the will clearly reflects the intentions of its maker.

Source: Forbes, "Wills Gone Wrong: Mistakes That Can Thwart Your Last Wishes", Sonya Stinson, February 20, 2014

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