If your will is invalidated by errors in its creation, all the work it took you to write it is basically wasted. Worse, the state may end up getting to decide what happens to your earthly goods and even who gets to take care of your children. The only way to control what happens to your estate after you die is to make sure your executors are competent, your will valid, your last wishes well-funded, and your attorney highly reputable and experienced. Here are three common mistakes people make when writing their wills that you'll want to avoid if you don't want your will to be considered invalid.
1. Missing your state's requirements
Some states have different or stricter regulations than others about what makes a valid will, and it's easy to get them mixed up, so even if you think you know the requirements to make your will legal, you shouldn't assume that what you know applies in your current state. Do the research and be sure to consult your attorney on such requirements as:
- Whether or not a beneficiary can also be a witness
- How many witnesses are needed
- Other witness requirements
- Whether or not a handwritten will is legal
This also means that even if you had your will legally drafted in another state, moving to a new state will require you to have your will re-done (or at least checked over for discrepancies) by an attorney who's familiar with the legalities of that state's will requirements.
2. Cutting and pasting from someone else's will
Unlike the plagiarism-paranoid world of academia, the world of wills frequently allows for wording to be pasted in from an already completed will to save time. But just because someone else's will looks like just the thing doesn't mean you can afford to let your eyes glaze over as you scan the text before inserting it into your own will. It's actually quite common for errors to slip in this way, so make sure you double-check and triple-check any copied wording and have your attorney check it over as well.
3. Omitting dates or full legal names
In order to be legal, your will has to be dated (this is important because, if you make multiple wills, it needs to be completely provable which one is the most recent). And you have to use not only your full legal name but also everyone else's; this includes middle names, because you want to leave absolutely no ambiguity about who you mean. If they have a common name, you can also include their birth date so there's no mistaken identity problems when your will is being executed.
These mistakes, though common, can all be avoided with a little care and the help of a reputable attorney who specializes in wills.