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Leaving property to Fido and other mistakes with wills

Wills can be important legal documents that ensure your loved ones carry out your wishes after you die. However, some people make mistakes that lead to confusion or bumps in the probate process. These errors also mean that their wishes do not get carried out sometimes.

So what are these mistakes?

Funeral directions

In many cases, people do not see your will until after your funeral. So, leaving instructions for your funeral and where to find the money to fund it could create problems later in probate if you have cash unaccounted for in your will since it was not used to pay for your funeral. It can also mean that you did not get the funeral you wanted. It is better to spell out your funeral wishes in a separate and accessible document that people know about. You can also discuss what you want with your loved ones.

Thinking the will supersedes everything else

What you put in your will is not the final, irrevocable word in some areas. For example, say that your 401(k) plan names Person A as your beneficiary. As you draw up your will, you realize you would rather Person B be the beneficiary. "No problem," you think. "I will just write in the will that B is the beneficiary." However, the ultimate beneficiary is the person you put down most recently on your 401(k) form. Change your beneficiary using these approved forms, not your will. The same idea applies to life insurance and property in a living trust.

Joint assets

If you co-own a house with, say, your cousin, and put in your will that you want the house to go to your daughter, it is likely she will not end up with the house or even your share of it. In situations of joint tenancy, your ownership portion of the property passes to the joint tenant.

Pet gifts

Pets cannot legally own property, so instead of leaving gifts directly to them, leave these gifts to the people who would take care of the pets. Include a note explaining what you wish the caregiver to do with the gifts. Another alternative in Minnesota is to set up a pet trust.

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Jeffrey P. Scott & Associates

Jeffrey P. Scott & Associates LLC
2356 University Avenue West, Suite 400 | St. Paul, MN 55114
Phone: 651-968-1457 Toll free: 866-442-3092
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