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writing a will - Montana Legal Advisors - Missoula, Montana

Writing Your Own Will in Montana? Avoid These Seven Common Mistakes.


Writing a Will is extremely important to you, your family, your beneficiaries, and your estate. A Will makes certain that your hard-earned assets go to the right people and places, that your loved ones are cared for, and that your final wishes are met. But a surprising number of Wills are never executed, or not executed correctly, because the do-it-yourself Will writer makes a common, easily avoidable mistake.

If you are writing your Will, either alone or with the help of a form or legal advisor, be sure to avoid these big errors:

  • Not being careful about cutting and pasting. There are lots of standard clauses in Wills, and there are a large number of Will templates available on the internet. However, cutting and pasting sections of your Will together could lead to trouble even if you only include a small mistake. Be extremely careful when using templates, and read your Will over carefully, double-checking names, dates, and other important details.
  • Not choosing the right executor. Most people pick a spouse or child to be their personal representative or executor, but this is not necessarily the right choice for everyone. Be sure to pick someone who is healthy and who will probably still be of sound mind and body when you pass away. Also, be sure to pick someone who will be able to handle your estate and the responsibilities that go along with being executor including working with your beneficiaries to distribute your estate as you intend. Finally, if something happens to your executor, or if you change your mind about your executor, be sure to update your Will.
  • Not planning for taxes and other expenses. Many people are quick to leave their assets to the people that they love and care for, but forget that even death comes with expenses. While you are planning your estate, be sure to leave behind liquid assets that are designated for your estate taxes (if applicable), your legal fees, and your funeral expenses. Also be sure that your assets are protected from taxes when possible.
  • Not including a residuary clause. This “leftovers” clause leaves any unnamed assets to a certain beneficiary. It ensures that all of your assets are disposed of properly and that state law will not dictate where unnamed assets will go. Carefully cataloging your debts and assets before you write your Will will also help you make certain you dispose of all of your property correctly.
  • Not updating your Will. Once you have written your Will, don’t make the mistake of putting it away and never thinking about it again. You will need to update your Will at key points in your life as well as key points in the lives of your beneficiaries. Be sure to update your Will: when you marry or divorce, when you have children, when a beneficiary dies, or when your wishes change.
  • Not telling your loved ones about your Will. A surprising number of Wills are never executed simply because the Will writer never told loved ones that they wrote a Will or where they put their Will. Despite what books and movies may have you think, a Will and its contents should not be a closely-held secret or a surprise. Tell your loved ones about your Will and where they can find it after your death. Don’t store your Will in a safe deposit box; the way to get into the box is to get a court order, and you need to file the Will with the Court in order to initiate the proceeding to get the court order.
  • Failing to have an attorney read over your Will. An attorney with estate planning experience can help you avoid all of the above mistakes, plus others. Whether you have a legal professional help you write your Will or simply review your Will for validity, getting legal help with your Will is an investment that can give you peace of mind and ensure that your document accomplishes exactly what you wish it to.

Get Legal Help With Your Will & Testament

Montana Legal Advisors offers hourly and flat-rate legal services to those who only need limited help. We offer Will writing and Will review services to residents of Missoula and Western Montana. Learn more about our Will and estate planning services contact us via email or call our office to schedule an appointment with a legal advisor at 406-540-4172.

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Legal Advise for parents getting a divorce

Telling Your Children About Your Divorce: Five Tips


For many couples, the toughest part of getting a divorce is helping their children through the process, from explaining the divorce to each child, to making sure that the children successfully navigate all the changes that come along with their parents splitting up.

Below, we’ve shared five tips from our parenting consultant about how to start the initial divorce conversation with your children – and how to keep lines of communication open beyond that first talk.

Plan the conversation ahead of time.
This is not a casual conversation. Before you sit down with your children, sit down with your spouse, if possible, and plan what to say and how to say it. Talk about logistics, such as who will be living where, and be prepared to answer some tough questions from your children. Write down anything that you absolutely don’t want to forget to say, like, “We both love you very much,” and “this isn’t your fault,” and “We will both still be there for you when you need us.”

Don’t assign blame. It’s best to talk to your children about the divorce as a couple and to present a loving, united front when it can be done with minimal emotion and without conflict. Even though your romantic relationship and partnership have ended, you and your spouse will now begin your co-parenting relationship. Since you will probably be telling your children that both parents will continue being a loving presence in their lives, and that the family will continue to function as a family, it is important to show the beginning of this new chapter by presenting it together.

Listen to your children. While the first part of your conversation should be you explaining the divorce and likely future family changes, you should also understand that the second half of the conversation should be a time for your children to voice concerns and ask questions. Take their concerns seriously and answer their questions honestly. Acknowledge their feelings and truly listen to what they have to say. Make sure you have talked with your spouse and agreed upon the answers to common questions. Also remember: it’s okay to say, “I don’t know but we will figure it out,” if you don’t know.

Make the conversation age appropriate. As you might imagine, telling your four-year-old about your divorce will be very different than telling your 16-year-old about your divorce. Don’t overwhelm younger children with information they won’t know how to process, and don’t over simplify divorce for teens who may need a more detailed explanation of what’s happening and why. Realize that if you have both younger and older children, you may need to have two different conversations at two different times.

Keep the conversation ongoing. One of the biggest mistakes parents can make when talking to their kids about divorce is to “drop a bomb” for one big talk, sitting them down telling them what’s going on initially – and then never talking openly about it again. You can begin broaching the subject by normalizing the situation for your children. Remind them about a friend whose parents are divorced and ask how it is working for them to have two homes. You can say things like, “We might do that too and it would okay.” Be sure to continue to talk to your children about the changes that are taking place, be sure to continue to listen to their concerns, and be sure to sit down with them more than once to go over what is happening and why.

At Montana Legal Advisors, we have a full-time parenting consultant who helps our clients navigate every aspect of divorce with children, including parenting plans, child visitation schedules, child support, and guardianship issues. To learn more about our services, please call us today at 406-540-4172.

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