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Gierach and Gierach, P.A.

Common Will Mistakes

Sadly, families sometimes fight over an inheritance. The reported court battle taking place between Revlon heiress Samantha Perelman and her uncle James Cohen is one such example. It appears Ms. Perelman is claiming that her uncle used undue influence in order to squeeze her out of her grandfather’s will.

One way to reduce the chances of your family arguing over your inheritance is to ensure that you leave a carefully drafted will and avoid some common errors. The following are examples of some of the mistakes people make when drafting their wills:

Execution

Florida's probate code sets out formal rules for executing a will, which relate to signing, witnessing, etc. If your will is not properly executed, it may be invalid and your estate will pass under the intestacy rules.

Amendments

People sometimes try to make changes to their will by making handwritten alterations. Amendments (known as codicils) need to comply with the same formalities as a will in order to be valid.

Poor tax planning

A will should form part of your overall estate plan. A well-structured estate plan can save on taxes later.

Poor wording

A will containing ambiguous or contradictory language may need to be interpreted by the court. This can cause considerable delays during probate and add expenses.

Failure to update

Even a well-drafted will may need to be updated to take into account changed circumstances. For example, there may be changes to your finances, to your family situation or to the tax laws.

Gifts to minors

It is generally not a good idea to leave an outright gift to a minor. The better option is to set up a testamentary trust in the will on behalf of the minor.

Lost wills

Sometimes family members have to spend a considerable amount of time and effort in trying to track down a decedent's will, and they don't always succeed in finding it. Make sure family members know where your will is kept and are able to easily retrieve it.

Consult an experienced Orlando wills attorney who can help you draft your will and avoid these pitfalls.

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