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What if you don't sign your will?

You know that most people don't have a will, and you set out to change that at least for your family. You draft a will, decide who should get your major assets, talk to your heirs about what they want, and then put the will in your desk.

However, you never actually get around to signing it. If you pass away -- perhaps unexpectedly -- and they find that will when they go through your things, is it going to hold up?

It's not. An unsigned will is not a valid will. Your estate will not be bound by whatever you wrote in it.

That does not mean your heirs will not follow it. The will still tells them what you wanted. You talked to them, so they know it exists. They may look at it and decide to stick to what you wrote anyway.

The difference -- and it's a critical one -- is that they have no legal obligation to follow it. They can make their own decisions. When they do, it can lead to disputes with other heirs. Imagine what could happen if two children want to follow your will and the other two do not. Who decides what happens? Certainly not you, since your will won't stand. You simply have to hope that they can resolve it on their own, and this often leads to conflicts and drawn-out court cases.

If you want to draft a will, make sure you understand exactly what legal steps you need to take to make sure that it actually holds up when needed.

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