7 estate planning mistakes to avoid
Preparing documents like a will and other key estate planning paperwork is important at any age, but can also provide peace of mind. The steps you take now will hopefully help reduce stress for your loved ones after you’re gone. Unfortunately, common estate planning mistakes and misconceptions may undermine our good intentions. Here are some common mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Having no plan
Without an estate plan, your assets will be distributed according to state law rather than in accordance with your wishes. In such cases, probate may become a time-consuming and stressful process for your heirs. Also, taxes and fees that may have been avoided with thoughtful planning can diminish the assets intended to provide for loved ones.
2. DIY estate planning
The self-reliant individual may opt to use do-it-yourself estate planning software rather than hire a professional. For some, especially those who are single and have few assets, such a step may be feasible. But as assets accumulate and families grow, estate planning issues often become more complex than can be accounted for with a one-size-fits-all plan.
3. Unclear estate planning
Regardless of directions given in your will, certain assets, such as retirement accounts, insurance policies and joint-tenancy property, will pass to heirs by beneficiary designation or right of survivorship rather than through probate. Be sure all of your assets that pass outside of a will are coordinated with your estate plan to avoid unwittingly causing confusion and undermining your own arrangements.
4. Overlooking trusts
A trust is an estate planning tool through which assets are passed directly to heirs, saving the time and expense involved in probate and protecting assets from creditors and lawsuits. In addition, trusts allow you to stipulate how and when the assets are distributed.
5. Neglecting disability planning
A sound estate plan will provide for the possibility of your becoming physically or mentally incapacitated to ensure that loved ones know your wishes and that someone you trust takes charge of your financial and physical well-being.
6. Poor communication
Alert the people you’ve named as trustee, executor or guardian to the role they may one day play. These positions often come with heavy responsibility, and you should select people who are willing to take on the task.
7. Assuming your estate plan is finished
Births and deaths, change in marital status, moving to a new state or changes in the law are just some of the events that can affect your estate plan. Review your plan annually to make sure it still reflects your wishes, at the least possible cost.