• January 27

Knowing When to be Specific and When to be General in Your Will

It is important to know how to include the right amount of specifics in a will or trust. 

Failing to Cover Important Details

Estate lawyers have had clients fail to recognize that their Wills need to cover everything they own and to whom, especially by failing to include what is often called a “residuary” clause (often also thought of as the “safety net” clause) to cover any items not specifically referenced or dealt with in the Will. Along those same lines, lawyers often see Wills where no backup or secondary beneficiary is dealt with for a particular asset. For example, if you leave something to “my cousin Johnny,” what specifically is to happen if he dies before you and you never change your Will?

Being Specific in Your Will

On the other hand, most lawyers have seen numerous situations where specific items needed to be addressed clearly but were not. If you do wish to specifically deal with certain items, then you need to describe the items and the distribution clearly so that there is no confusion during your probate estate by your Executor or your beneficiaries. Specific jewelry or other items you wish to leave for other people? A certain plan for how you want your children to divide your personal property? Your desire that someone has the first option to buy your house or other real estate? You want to be clear and concise about each so that there remains no uncertainty.  

Lawyers also, surprisingly, too often see Wills with inaccurate or outdated specific information.  What happens when you list your real estate, but it’s the wrong address, or something that you have since sold before your death? Or when you specify your prized painting or guitar, but get the description wrong or then no longer own it at your death?  Although the law is clear that you can’t give away what you no longer own at your death, that doesn’t change potential hurt feelings or conflict for beneficiaries expecting something that a person no longer owned at their death. What becomes much more complicated are those situations where assets are erroneously stated, as such situations can too often lead to conflict.

Contact a Lawyer Today

An attorney who understands both a person’s personal desires as well as the law can assist in the preparation of a Will in ensuring all such issues can be avoided.  As we so often tell people, there’s no requirement of an attorney to help a person to prepare a Will. But that person’s beneficiaries too often find out the hard way that if no attorney was involved in the Will preparation, then many more attorneys unfortunately will often get paid on the back end with a complex probate estate to deal with and fight about the Will problems that could otherwise have been avoided with proper planning. Contact an experienced estate planning lawyer, like one from Carpenter & Lewis, PLLC, today to learn more. 

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