Will Contest

Five Common Mistakes to Avoid When Drafting a Will in Iowa

Drafting a will is arguably the most important piece of an estate plan. Sometimes, when people don’t want to spend the time and money to hire an attorney, they may write a will themselves. They can even take advantage of computer or online software to help them write their will. However, writing a will this way could result in mistakes that can cause conflicts and other problems when the will is probated after they die. Here are five common mistakes that should be avoided when drafting a will.

Not Properly Executing the Will Document

A will must be properly executed under state law for it to be accepted by the court during the probate process. In Iowa, a will must be written and signed by the maker of the will. The will must also be signed by two witnesses who watch the maker of the will sign the document. The witnesses must be at least 16 years old and cannot be named beneficiaries in the will. Any witness who stands to inherit under the will can have their gift voided by the probate court.

Although a will doesn’t need to be notarized under Iowa law, doing so can make the probate process a lot easier. If a will isn’t notarized, the witnesses to the will may be called into court during probate to testify to the will’s validity. If the will-maker and the witnesses execute notarized affidavits proving their identity and attesting that they signed the will, the witnesses likely won’t need to be called into court.

Failing to Dispose of All Your Property

While many people bequeath specific assets to particular beneficiaries, this may create a situation where a will-maker doesn’t dispose of all their property. Any property not included in the will becomes subject to Iowa’s intestacy laws, and the state will determine who inherits the property.

A residuary clause can help avoid this situation. In a clause like this, the will-maker identifies a person who will receive any estate assets not specifically bequeathed in the will.

Making Unclear References to Items or Individuals

Confusion and disputes can arise during the probate process when a will includes unclear references, either to assets or beneficiaries. For example, if a will-maker wants to give a specific item to someone but doesn’t describe it well enough, the executor or administrator of the estate may not be able to identify the item. Issues can also arise when using ambiguous references to beneficiaries like “sibling” or “child” or when multiple beneficiaries have the same or similar names.

Not Understanding the Difference Between Probate and Non-Probate Assets

People who draft wills by themselves may not understand the distinction between probate assets, which can be distributed by a will, and non-probate assets that pass to beneficiaries outside of the will. Non-probate assets could include pension or life insurance benefits that have a beneficiary or pay-on-death designation. A will-maker can create conflict and confusion by trying to bequeath non-probate assets in their will.

Not Planning for the Deaths of Executors or Beneficiaries

Good estate planning requires preparing for circumstances where people who are named in a will predecease the will-maker. Although estate plans should be regularly updated, many people neglect to do so, or they may pass away before they review their estate plan. Naming alternate executors or beneficiaries and having a residuary clause can help avoid a situation where provisions of a will fail because the named individual died before the will-maker.

Contact an Estate Planning Lawyer in Iowa for Help Drafting Your Will

To help avoid mistakes in putting together your will, contact The Iowa estate planning lawyers of Telpner Peterson Law Firm, LLP, today for a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys. We can assist you with putting together a comprehensive, effective will and estate plan that ensures your wishes are carried out and that your assets are passed on to your loved ones.

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