Wills are one of the simplest and most common legally documents that nearly everyone can create. Unfortunately, while nearly everyone can create one, few people can do it right without the assistance of an attorney, and this leads to many estates being contested in probate each year. Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid.
Violating the Rule Against Perpetuities
The rule against perpetuities is an old legal doctrine so complex that few lawyers that don't regularly handle cases involving it don't even fully understand it. In short, its main principle is that a person who has passed away shouldn't be able to continue to make decisions for the living long after their death.
A common will provision that might violate the rule against perpetuities is a house being transferred to a family member if and only after they get married or enroll in a certain college. Any such conditions generally must occur within a specific time period after the testator's death or that section of the will will be invalidated.
To avoid a will contest, work with an attorney if your will will contain any provisions that aren't effective immediately upon your death.
Last Minute Gifts
Many people choose to give family members sentimental items before they pass away. Unfortunately, this can lead to accusations of theft or taking advantage of a family member who has lost mental capacity. It can also lead to arguments over whether these gifts should be considered as part of the estate when it is divided.
You don't have to avoid giving these types of gifts to protect your will and avoid family disputes after you are gone. Instead of rewriting your will, you can use a codicil to spell out your intentions. A codicil is simply the legal term for an amendment to your will, and it has full legal effect as if it were part of your will.
Not Properly Validating Your Will
Most states will accept a handwritten will on a napkin, but not going through the proper legal process is only asking for the validity of your will to be challenged. To make sure that your will is clearly validated, sign it in the presence of a notary with the number of witnesses required by your state.
If you're involved in a dispute over a will or want to make sure your will will stand up to any challenges, contact a local contested estates probate attorney today.