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16 Things Commonly Forgotten in a Will That Haunt Heirs

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Most people know a will covers the basics, like who gets the house, investments, and that ugly but sentimental antique chair. But what many fail to realize is that a will is about more than just possessions. It can address a surprising range of issues that deeply affect the lives of those you leave behind.

Unfortunately, forgetting a few crucial details could lead to unintended consequences, family feuds, and logistical nightmares after you’re gone. Even well-intentioned people make oversights, leaving their loved ones tangled in legal red tape when they’re already grieving.

Wills aren’t exactly easy to read, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So, let’s spotlight some commonly overlooked items that absolutely deserve a place in your will, ensuring your final wishes are carried out the way you intend.

1. Digital Assets: Not Just Photos and Playlists

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Digital assets include online accounts, social media profiles, cryptocurrency, and e-commerce stores you run. Anything existing only in the virtual world requires instructions. Otherwise, accounts could languish or, worse, be closed permanently.

Appoint a “digital executor” to handle these assets. List logins (stored SECURELY), and whether you want accounts memorialized, closed, or data passed to specific heirs. This isn’t just sentimental, it could prevent loss of valuable business assets.

2. Pets: Fido’s Future

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Sadly, pets are often forgotten in wills. This means shelters or well-meaning family members scrambling to care for an animal they’re ill-equipped to handle. Avoid this heartbreaking situation for your beloved companion!

Designate a guardian and, ideally, a backup or two. Discuss this with them in advance! Leave money for pet care, which will add to the peace of mind for the person taking on this responsibility.

3. Heirlooms with High Emotional Value

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Grandma’s china might be worthless in dollars, but priceless to certain family members. Misunderstandings about who gets seemingly minor things cause huge rifts. Save your loved ones the heartache.

Specificity is key! This IS the place to get granular. “My Tiffany-style lamp goes to Sarah” beats vague “all jewelry to my daughters” invites. Talk to your family about anything you own that they might have a specific attachment to that you didn’t realize.

4. Letters of Explanation

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A will is mainly for legal distribution stuff. But sometimes, you need to express WHY you made certain choices. Maybe one child is getting less due to a lifetime of financial help you provided.

This doesn’t go IN the will itself (which becomes a public record) but as a separate letter referenced by the will. It minimizes hurt feelings and potential legal challenges based on perceived unfairness.

5. Funeral Instructions: More than Just Burial vs Cremation

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Do you want a religious service, a celebration of life, or to be cremated and scattered someplace meaningful? Specifics spare your family the anguish of guessing your wishes while drowning in grief.

If costs are a concern, prepaying some arrangements can lessen that burden. Detailing this in your will guides your family on using any funds set aside for final expenses.

6. Guardianship of Minor Children: It’s Not Automatic

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The most gut-wrenching decision of all! If unthinkable tragedy strikes, who raises your kids? Never assume family will automatically step in – legal guardianship is necessary if that’s your desire.

Talk to potential guardians BEFORE naming them in your will. Responsibilities and financial considerations should be openly discussed, ensuring your children’s well-being on every level.

7. Beneficiaries with Special Needs

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Simply leaving money outright could disqualify a loved one with a disability from crucial government benefits. Special Needs Trusts provide for their care without that unintended negative consequence.

This requires an attorney specializing in these trusts. It’s more complex than standard inheritance, so including the right provisions in your will is paramount to protecting your loved one’s long-term security.

8. Business Succession: Beyond Who Inherits the Company

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If you own a business, be very specific with your wishes. Is the goal to sell? Should a key employee take over? Do you want a child to continue the family business, even if they aren’t yet qualified? A will can outline this transition.

Lack of planning can DESTROY the value of what you built. Work with a business lawyer while you’re able, so the instructions in your will ensure a smooth continuation, not chaos.

9. “Shotgun Clauses” for Shared Property

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Maybe you co-own a vacation home with siblings. If one of you dies, friction arises if their heirs suddenly become co-owners. A “shotgun clause” forces a buyout for fairness but at fair market value.

It sounds harsh, but it preempts feuds. Specify how the value is determined (appraisal, etc.). This applies to jointly owned business assets, too, saving partners from messy entanglements with their heirs.

10. Disinheriting Someone: It Takes More than Just Omitting Them

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Intentionally cutting someone out requires specific wording, or they could contest the will. Harsh as it sounds, stating your reasons clearly limits the chances of a successful legal battle by a disgruntled heir.

“No contest” clauses are worth exploring with your lawyer. If heirs challenge the will and lose, they forfeit ANY inheritance. This discourages frivolous lawsuits.

11. Marriage and Divorce

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In most states, marriage doesn’t automatically void an old will. However, it CAN cause confusion. Divorce presents even more complexities, as your ex might still be entitled to inherit if the will wasn’t updated.

Review (and likely revise) your will immediately upon any change in marital status. It’s not romantic but protects everyone involved and ensures your wishes are honored.

12. The Birth of New Family Members

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Maybe it’s a child, a grandchild, or even new stepchildren you become close with. Don’t forget to add them to the will or update guardianship designations if circumstances warrant a change.

“Per stirpes” vs. “per capita” matter here. These legal terms affect how assets split if a beneficiary dies before you. An attorney can clarify which best suits your family dynamics.

13. Your Executor Passes Away (or Becomes Incapable)

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The person you entrusted to carry out your will may no longer be able. Designating alternates, as life happens, ensures this vital role is always filled by someone competent and willing.

Talk to your chosen executor regularly to make sure nothing in their life might prevent them from fulfilling their duties when the time comes.

14. Changes in Financial Situation

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A surprise inheritance or major investments paying off (or flopping) can affect how you want assets distributed. Bequests of specific dollar amounts could cause problems if the value of your estate drastically changes.

Using percentages instead of fixed amounts adds flexibility. However, if assets are complex, regular will updates may still be wise to avoid confusion after you’re gone.

15. You’ve Moved to a New State

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Estate laws vary. A will valid where you wrote it could be contested elsewhere, if it doesn’t meet the new state’s requirements. Having it reviewed by a local lawyer catches those crucial differences.

This is especially important if you are moving to a state with “community property” laws, as these laws drastically impact what you can independently bequeath.

16. Witness Woes

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Most wills need 2 witnesses, who cannot be beneficiaries. If they die, move away, or your relationship sours, your will COULD be invalidated, even if everything else is perfectly written!

Choose young-ish witnesses unlikely to predecease you. Keep their contact info updated, in case their testimony is needed to defend your will against future challenges.

14 Things Your Kids Don’t Want to Inherit When You Pass

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As a parent, you are not just leaving behind a legacy or stuff for your children— you are also leaving behind a set of responsibilities. You strive to pass on love, wisdom, financial abundance, and some family heirlooms. However, despite our best intentions, there are certain things that our children would prefer not to inherit when we pass. This is a crucial aspect of planning for the future that we often overlook.

14 Things Your Kids Don’t Want to Inherit When You Pass

19 Things You Shouldn’t Fear as You Get Older

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As we grow older, it’s common for our fears to grow alongside us and sometimes hold us back from enjoying our lives. Many of these worries come from not knowing what will happen as we age. The media (social and news) also makes older folks unnecessarily fearful about their health and vitality- often painting a picture of disaster, decline, and disease.

19 Things You Shouldn’t Fear as You Get Older

14 Tough Parts About Getting Older No One Shares

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Some people celebrate the first grey hair and the first wrinkle, while others are horrified at the first sign of aging and do all they can to eliminate it. The tell-tale signs of aging are met with varied reactions, but they all indicate one thing—no one will be left by this aging train.

14 Tough Parts About Getting Older No One Shares

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