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9 don'ts if you do want to protect your wishes and assets

Having a will in place is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family. A will can effectively define your wishes, establish contingency plans and direct others on what to do, especially when it is coupled with other estate planning tools like trusts and powers of attorney.

However, wills can be contested if there is reason to doubt their legitimacy or enforceability. This can be upsetting for all parties who are affected by the will, and it could result in decisions that may go against the wishes of the testator -- or, the person who created the will. In order to avoid or reduce the chances of a will contest, you would be wise to avoid these nine common mistakes that trigger a challenge.

  1. Don't forget to update your will.
  2. Don't forget to tell someone where to find your will.
  3. Don't be vague or include obscure terms.
  4. Don't create multiple versions of your will without noting which is the most current.
  5. Don't include illegal or unenforceable clauses.
  6. Don't sign your will without a witness.
  7. Don't create your will when you are not of sound mind.
  8. Don't assume others will know what you want.
  9. Don't create a will without legal guidance.

Making any of these missteps could ultimately put your will -- and your wishes -- in jeopardy. It could also lead to unnecessary strain for those who will need to go through an even lengthier probate process.

Taking the time to make sure your will is clear, legally enforceable and reflective of your current wishes can be critical. And rather than leave it all up to chance and just hope it all works out, you can talk to your attorney to create, review and/or update your will and other estate planning documents.

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