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Your will is an essential tool in making sure that your property goes to the people you want to receive it after your death. By keeping these simple facts in mind, you can use this tool more effectively and avoid the mistakes that can cause huge problems down the road.

Think you know everything about wills? Whether you’ve been schooled on wills or not, there are some facts about wills everyone should know.

A recent Daily Finance article, titled “4 Things You Didn’t Know About Wills – But Should“, provides a few of those facts to bear in mind whether you have a will already or may create one someday.

  • Even in the Electronic Age, You Must Still Follow the Formalities. The laws covering wills are some of the oldest we have in this country. The ownership and postmortem transfer of property has been going on long before the United States was around. One frequent complaint is that the laws and the courts are not keeping up with technology. Even with our Smartphone and eSignatures, creating a will that is going to be found valid still requires that you follow the often-antiquated laws precisely. In most states, it is critical that you sign the will in the presence of witnesses, who will have the duty of testifying in probate court after your death to say that the will was validly signed (e.g., some states require the witnesses’ signatures to be notarized in order to have a “self-proving will,” thereby eliminating the need for the witnesses to later testify as to the will’s validity).
  • A Will is a Good Idea Even if You’re Poor. Many young people, and those who believe they are of modest means, do not think they need to create a will. They think that with little or no assets, they do not have anything to leave. However, if you are a parent of any minor children, many states provide that your will is the place where you appoint the person you would like to take care of your children in the event you pass away. If you do not choose a guardian, then a judge will decide.
  • If You Don’t Update Your Will, the Law Might Do It for You. When major life events occur, like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of a close family member, people many times fail to update their wills and other estate planning documents. This can result in undesirable results in some circumstances. In light of this, the laws in some states may “rewrite” your will for you … even if you deliberately choose to do nothing.

Your will is an essential and vital legal device to ensure that your property passes to the individuals you intend to inherit it after your death. By heeding these simple reminders and others from an experienced estate planning attorney, you can use your will to more effectively avoid mistakes that can cause huge problems down the road.

Reference: Daily Finance (June 28, 2014) “4 Things You Didn’t Know About Wills – But Should

For more information on asset preservation and estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.