A slip of the pen can lead to little mistakes in a will that make the terms invalid.
Making sure you have a valid an up-to-date will is important for anyone who owns property and other valuable assets – especially if they are expats with homes in more than one country.
But failing to take professional advice can throw plans to look after your loved ones into disarray.
Take the well-meaning executor who wanted to avoid hefty bank fees for administrating a relative’s mistake.
The nephew wanted to retype the will and put his own name in the place of the bank, even though his aunt had died and could not agree to his action or sign the document.
Lawyers face horror stories like this over estate planning all the time.
But five consistent mistakes are made by will-writers that should be avoided:
Failing to update the terms of a will– this can cause problems if property is mortgaged and interest rates rise leaving less equity in the asset.
Another overlooked issue is invalidating a will when someone remarries.
Check a will every two years and more often if you have a sudden change of personal circumstances.
Keep a rein on debts –If you are making gifts based on the value of your home or other property, factor in debt. Consider leaving percentages of value rather than set amounts to avoid problems dealing with too little or excess cash.
Avoid letters of wishes –The idea sounds OK, but these letters are not legally binding on the executors and can lead to disputes. Keep financial gifts contained within the will, because your wishes will have to be obeyed.
Consider guardians for children– Think about this carefully. Blood relatives are best, and most people name couples.
Don’t be ambiguous –Spell out what you mean clearly. Think about the consequences of your gifts and make sure you know the value of possessions like art, jewellery, watches and furniture.
Gifts can lead to accusations of favouritism and unfairness after you have gone that you did not intend.
Talk to a professional
If in doubt about how to word your will, always consult a professional who can help clarify your wishes and ensure the document does not contain any silly errors.