Anyone of sound mind can create their own will fairly easily. To make a legally binding will in California, you must put your wishes in writing and get the document signed by two witnesses—who are not required to read it. Then you sign and date it. If you draft your will be hand—known as a holographic will—then you can circumvent the witness signature requirement.
Although making a will may be simple, it’s still possible to make mistakes in your will—which could impact the possibility of fulfilling your wishes once you’re gone. In this article, we examine a few common errors of self-made wills:
- Leaving funeral directives: In most cases, your funeral will happen within a few days after you pass away. Typically, the will is read after the funeral takes place, so leaving instructions regarding your funeral wishes won’t serve you if they’re embedded in your will. Instead, create a separate document with your funeral wishes, and leave it with your executor or a family member.
- Distributing life insurance or retirement benefits: When you first set up a retirement account or life insurance plan, you’ll be prompted to designate a beneficiary at that time. It’s not possible to leave life insurance or retirement benefits to loved ones in your will.
- Leaving inheritance to your pet: Under California law, animals are not permitted to own property, and therefore they can’t inherit any gifts you designate in your will. However, you can set up a pet trust to ensure that your pet is cared for once you’re gone.
These are just a few common mistakes that could throw a wrench in your plans to provide for your loved ones. Therefore, it’s worth having a legal professional look over any will you draft yourself to ensure that it’s legally grounded.