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Don't make these common will mistakes

Most Florida residents are aware of the importance of a will. It's an useful tool in everyone's estate planning arsenal, but oft-made mistakes can cause expensive litigation and family feuds. However, some of these common pitfalls can be easily avoided.

Wording that isn't clear can potentially be a legal nightmare, and a source of family strife. That's why most experts say a do-it-yourself will should be viewed with caution, and at the very least reviewed by an attorney. Examples of vague wording in templates can be "assets going to the issue of the marriage." This can create a problem for couples that have children from previous relationships because that wording leaves those adult children out in the cold.

Another problem is making a will and not updating it after life events such as a divorce, adoption or death of a beneficiary. When the will is updated, one should make sure that all the old copies are destroyed and anyone that was confided in about the contents is aware of the changes. A new will does not override existing beneficiary designations in instruments such as life insurance policies, so these will need to be reviewed as well. Another common problem occurs when the family doesn't know where to find the original will when it is time to probate it. Probating a photocopy is possible, but the court must be convinced that it was truly lost and not revoked.

The distribution of an estate can be difficult if the will is too vague, out of date or can't be found. An attorney with estate planning experience may be able to review an existing will for form and content and suggest any necessary changes.

Source: Forbes, "Wills Gone Wrong: Mistakes That Can Thwart Your Last Wishes", February 20, 2014

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