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Common Mistakes to Avoid When Drafting Your Will

— March 7, 2024

A thoughtfully crafted will minimize family disputes and provide peace of mind that your intentions will be carried out when gone.

Drafting a legally valid will is an important part of estate planning and empowering you to decide precisely how your assets will be distributed after your passing. However, people make some common mistakes when creating their will, as the process can be complex, leading to unintended consequences and legal issues down the road.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common pitfalls to avoid when drafting your will, as advised by legal experts. Knowing these key issues will allow you to thoughtfully prepare a legally sound will that accurately conveys your final wishes.

  1. Failing to Include Critical Details

Your last will should comprehensively document your desires, detailing how every cherished possession and valuable asset will be allocated, the guardianship of any minor children, and other significant matters about your estate. 

Neglecting to include important details can lead to confusion, disputes, and legal challenges after you pass away. Take ample time to thoughtfully consider and thoroughly outline every relevant aspect to prevent ambiguity.

  1. Not Keeping Your Will Up to Date

Your will should evolve as your life circumstances change. Many people make the mistake of writing their will once and never revisiting it, even after major life events like marriage, divorce, having children, retirement, or acquiring new assets. 

It’s wise to periodically review your will, at least every few years, to make any necessary revisions that reflect developments in your family structure, relationships, financial situation, and intentions. Keeping it updated helps prevent conflicts. 

Your lawyer can guide you on any necessary inclusions and answer questions about what provisions can be removed or modified. Learn more here if you haven’t consulted a lawyer yet.

  1. Using Unclear Language

When drafting a will, clarity, and precision in language are vital. Ambiguous phrasing, vague terminology, or confusing sentences can lead to misinterpretations of your wishes. This could result in disputes and legal battles between your heirs. 

To ensure accurate understanding, use direct, straightforward, and explicit language to convey your desires regarding asset distribution and other estate matters.

  1. Failing to Consider Estate Taxes

The tax implications of your estate can significantly impact your beneficiaries’ inheritance. With proper estate tax planning, your heirs may avoid unexpected financial burdens. Before finalizing your will, thoroughly discuss tax minimization strategies with a qualified estate planning attorney or tax advisor. Incorporate appropriate provisions to optimize your estate’s tax obligations.

  1. Not Updating Beneficiary Designations

Certain accounts, like retirement plans and life insurance policies, pass to the named account beneficiaries regardless of your will’s contents. Failing to update beneficiary designations when circumstances change can create discrepancies between these accounts and your will. Routinely review and update beneficiary designations in tandem with your will.

  1. Choosing an Unsuitable Executor

Selecting the wrong executor can jeopardize the fulfillment of your wishes. An executor handles essential duties like probating your will, communicating with beneficiaries, appraising assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing inheritances. 

Choose a reliable, responsible, and financially competent individual who can capably handle these tasks.

  1. Failing to Communicate Your Wishes

Although uncomfortable, expressing your wishes openly with loved ones can prevent misunderstandings and disagreements later. Discuss your intentions, values, and desires regarding end-of-life matters. Discussing your will beforehand allows the family to prepare emotionally and logistically.

  1. Improperly Executing Your Will

    Two women reviewing paperwork; image by Mikhail Nilov, via
    Two women reviewing paperwork; image by Mikhail Nilov, via

There are specific legal rules for signing your will. You must follow these rules carefully, or your will may not be valid. Often, you need witnesses to watch you sign the will and then sign it themselves. Your will may be invalidated if you don’t have the right witnesses. 

  1. Inadequately Storing an Original

After drafting your will, store the original document in a safe yet accessible place, like a fireproof safe, safe deposit box, or with your attorney. If your original will is lost, damaged, stolen, or destroyed, disputes over your wishes could arise. Take measures to preserve your will securely.

  1. Making Handwritten Changes

Avoid making handwritten edits or amendments to your typed will. Any corrections or changes should be made by drafting a codicil or new will document. Handwritten notes can lead to confusion, misinterpretation of your intentions, or possible disputes over the validity of the changes. 

To modify your will, consult your attorney and make formal revisions to reduce ambiguity and uphold the legal integrity of the document.


A legally valid will ensures your wishes are met and assets properly distributed after passing. Consult a lawyer, communicate with beneficiaries, and update the will regularly to avoid errors. Use clear language, pick a responsible executor, and store the document properly. 

A thoughtfully crafted will minimize family disputes and provide peace of mind that your intentions will be carried out when gone. Investing time in an effective will is worth the effort.

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