Duck These Dangerous Wills to Protect Your Family

Making Wills Easy – New Summer Series 5

You may not be famous — yet. But your family still needs to benefit from your will. Never think making a homemade will is okay. Quick fixes can fool you into thinking you solved your problem. But are your loved ones and money safe?

Some wills are dangerous and not worth the paper they are written on. You need to know common dangerous wills and take a pass on them.

Surprisingly, wills come in and out of fashion. Like all trends, some types of bad wills become popular in the news and your inbox.

Dangerous Wills You Want to Avoid

Making any will on this danger list means you are gambling with your money and family’s future.

1. Jumping into Joint Wills Is Dangerous

These joint wills start with words like, “We, Tom and Mary Jones declare this is our last will.” Don’t try to save money by signing one will document for two persons or spouses. You need two separate wills signed individually.

Tom and Mary thought they would save money having only one will. Both partners signed the same will. They had the same beneficiaries. Why not?
Joint wills cause trouble.

Problems arise when Tom or Mary die separately. Is any one of them stuck with the terms of their joint will? Could Tom change any terms of his joint will with Mary if she died first? Or did they make a contract that beneficiaries can enforce?

Only courts can decide if joint wills can be changed. Changing joint wills may need both spouses’ consent, which is impossible to obtain. Beneficiaries may object if you change wills after your spouse dies. Joint wills create more uncertainty, lawsuits and problems.

2. Holy Heck! Holographic Wills Are Not Valid Wills Everywhere

Holographic wills must be entirely in your handwriting. You can’t use forms or handwritten part of your will. You must write your entire will, date and sign it. Witnesses are not needed for holographic wills. However, holographic wills are not valid wills in every jurisdiction.

Don’t rely on two-line holographic wills that you sign before boarding planes. These documents often make no sense. They usually lead to costly trips to courthouses with lawyers. This is necessary to prove it’s your own handwriting. Independent witnesses who are not beneficiaries must provide evidence to satisfy courts.

There are also hidden costs you should know about. Handwritten documents require court approval with independent, qualified witnesses. Holographic documents usually need courts to interpret what you wrote. This process is expensive, even if holographic wills are legally permitted where you live.

3. Mutual Wills Have Multiple Dangers

Franco’s will leaves everything to his spouse, Liz. His will has a clause in it that says: “I want my spouse, Liz, to leave our farm to my children from my first marriage in her will.” Does this wording control what Liz can do with the family farm?

• Can Liz claim the clause in the will does not stop her from selling the farm?
• Must Liz leave the farm to Franco’s children after he dies?
• Does this clause protect Franco’s children?

Mutual wills are not the same as mirror or identical wills. Parents usually make identical wills. They leave everything to each other and then to their children.

Mutual wills are different.

Spouses can have the same executors and beneficiaries. But what if they are in a blended family with children from prior relationships? Franco’s will clause can lead to a dispute.

What if Franco’s children can prove their father and Liz both made mutual wills?

Could they go to court to show they maintained the bee hives and sold the honey from the farm for decades? Could they stop them from selling the farm? These are the types of cases that only judges may decide.

Liz may be bound if she agreed to Franco’s terms.

Mutual wills can be difficult to identify but have certain characteristics. Couples can make contracts to pool their property and not revoke or change their wills.

But what if one of them dies and remarries? Or the farm is sold and the money used to purchase a summer home?

There will be trouble unless you use contracts outside of the will to confirm your wishes. Whenever you change your will, you will need to update your contract.

Remember, wills are not contracts.

Wills can be terminated and declared invalid. There is no guarantee that Liz would give the farm to Franco’s children without you having separate contracts. That is why blended families need contracts (like a prenup).

Without supporting contracts to confirm wishes, your mutual wills create problems.

4. Don’t Be Tricked by Living Wills Because They Are Not Real Wills

Living wills are documents that deal with medical and healthcare issues. They can set out your wishes for care but not for your money.

Living wills are intended to be read before you die, not after. So don’t confuse them with wills.

Wills are only effective after you die. They appoint estate executors to distribute your stuff.

Living wills are not wills at all. They don’t deal with your assets or name executors and beneficiaries.

I have saved the worst type of will for last.

Want to know what type of will causes the most expensive headaches? Read about DIY wills next.

Read my introductory post for this series, and contact us to make an appointment.