Common mistakes that could lead to estate disputes

Date: Apr 11, 2012

Seeking legal advice is important when writing a will, as this could help avoid estate disputes that may prove costly and traumatic for your family.

There are many errors that arise time and time again when composing a will, so being aware of them should help you put together a sound document that can easily be executed in the event of your death.

One common mistake when writing a will is to appoint an executor who is not equipped to deal with the duties they will be expected to fulfil.

Many people will choose someone who is a similar age or older than themselves, which can present problems if they pass away before you.

The other mistake is that the executor may have a conflict of interest - for example, they might be a business partner or family member who seeks to benefit from your assets.

Will writers may also fail to appoint guardians for their children in the event of their death, which is a situation that commonly arises when both parents pass away at the same time.

You will need to choose someone who has a relationship with your children and can perform parental duties competently - discussing this with them before putting together the will is essential.

One element that some people fail to take into account is their level of debt, which can make it hard for your executor when distributing your estate.

When writing your will, it is common for people not to acknowledge their debts, so you might want to think about how you would like them to be repaid.

For many will writers, this will mean stipulating that you wish all debts to be repaid before the remaining assets are distributed, otherwise you could find yourself leaving a property with a mortgage to your offspring.

Once you have written a will, it is all too common for people to file it away and forget about it.

However, it is crucial that you update it if there are any changes to your circumstances, such as if you get divorced, have more children or find yourself accruing more debt.

If you sell any significant assets then this will also need to be reflected in your updated document.

Lastly, you must make sure that the executor knows where to find your will - not being able to locate it could create additional anxiety at this already difficult time.