The wills of two celebrities who recently died – Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Walker – illustrate the importance of keeping your will up to date. Hoffman died with a 2004 will that left out his two youngest daughters; Walker’s will had not been updated since he created it in 2001.
Reviewing your will when life brings change – like a birth, a death, or a divorce – will help ensure your will is valid and does what you intend for it to do. Here are some other things you can do to ensure your will is valid:
Make sure it can be found. A common mistake many people make is to lock away their will in a bank safety deposit box, not realizing that it will require a court order to open that box and your loved ones will be without the necessary documents to open probate.
Be careful about who you choose as executor. Naturally you want to name someone who is responsible, but be sure they actually want the job before you name them. In addition, name a second person to serve in case your first choice is unavailable.
Avoid contradictions in estate planning documents. You want to be sure your will doesn’t contradict the choices you have already made for those listed on beneficiary forms for your life insurance policy, retirement accounts, etc.
Name a back-up guardian. One of the most important functions of a will is naming a guardian for minor children. But what if you only named one person, and that person couldn’t take on the responsibility? Naming a second choice for guardian will bypass this potential problem.
Be specific. If you want to disinherit someone, you must state that specifically in your will. In addition, if you have gotten divorced and remarried but have children from your first marriage, you will want to make provisions for both your current spouse and your children from the first marriage. Not doing so could leave your children unintentionally disinherited.
Seek professional guidance. While there are many online options for creating a will, these are not tailored to your specific needs. Seek professional guidance from a qualified estate planning attorney so you can avoid common mistakes that could invalidate your will.
Based in Irvine, the Flanigan Law Group is a California estate planning, administration and litigation legal services law firm. For more information on California wills and estate plans, contact the Flanigan Law Group at 949-450-0041.