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Invalid Wills: Common Causes and Protecting Your Estate Plan

Having a will in place protects you and your family’s future while ensuring that all of your assets are distributed according to your wishes. But there are common mistakes that people make drafting a will.

These can lead to your will becoming invalid, which causes other significant and costly issues. Avoiding the invalidation of a will is something that a family law attorney can help you achieve through a variety of strategies.

Knowing what items invalidate a will is the first step to protecting your estate plan.

The Essentials of Your Will

Your will is a legal document that directs the distribution of your assets at the time of your death. Individuals who fail to establish a will have their property distributed by the state courts.

The following are some factors that your will can address:

  • Estate management
  • Asset distribution
  • Child custody
  • Executor designation
  • Funeral arrangements
  • Tax payments

Wills must be put in writing and signed. Two or more witnesses must also be present and provide their signatures in order for your will to be valid.

Individuals must have the mental capacity to create a will and determine how his or her assets will be distributed.

Your estate planning attorney can draft your will and help you update it over time. Keep copies of all of your wills regardless of any changes in order to prevent issues that may prevent your wishes from being carried out.

Common Causes of an Invalid Will

In order for your will to be valid, it must contain all of the necessary information. Lacking the required information can keep your will from serving its purpose.

When drafting your will, you must explicitly state your intent to create a will and clarify that a given document is intended to serve as your will. Improper influence, duress, or fraud can cause a will to be invalidated.

Provisions that appoint your executor and dictate how your assets should be handled upon your death must be included in a valid will. Your executor is responsible for enforcing all of the terms that are outlined in the document.

If an executor improperly executes a will, it could invalidate it. Executor requirements can vary between states, and understanding what’s required when executing your will prevents any issues that could cause your will to become invalid.

Testamentary capacity refers to the individual’s state of mind when drafting a will. Older adults often suffer from cognitive issues such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, while other individuals may have problems related to drug or alcohol addiction.

These and other factors can prevent a person from fully understanding their will, and it may cause the courts to invalidate the document due to the lack of testamentary capacity.

Any revisions or updates invalidate previous versions of your will. The most recent version of your will is the one that will be deemed valid.

Keeping all versions of your wills prevents unwanted issues, confusion, and emotional upset among family members.

Protecting Your Estate and Keeping Your Will Valid

An invalid will causes your assets to be distributed by the state. Intestacy occurs when there is no valid will to determine how the estate should be distributed upon a person’s death.

Dying intestate can result in the distribution of assets according to family lineage and blood relation. This can lead to conflicts between family members and loved ones, and it emphasizes the need for proper estate planning.

Working with your estate planning attorney helps you identify the potential risks that you need to avoid when drafting a valid will.

Your attorney can provide the resources that help you choose the options that support the long-term financial wellbeing of you and your family.

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