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A Dozen Common Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

A Dozen Common Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

A Dozen Common Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

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November 19, 2023

  1. Failing To Plan

Failing to plan can have serious consequences for your loved ones and your legacy. Without a proper plan, you may leave behind conflict, confusion, and unnecessary costs. You may also lose control over how your assets are distributed and who will take care of your minor children or dependents. A well-designed estate plan can help you avoid these problems and ensure that your wishes are respected and fulfilled.

  1. Forgetting About Charities That Are Important to You

Many people have causes that they care deeply about and want to support, but they may not think of including them in their estate plan. This can result in missed opportunities to make a lasting impact on the issues that matter to you. By forgetting about charities in your estate plan, you may also miss out on tax benefits that could reduce your estate taxes and increase the amount you leave to your heirs.

  1. Forgetting About Taxes

Many people overlook the impact of taxes on their estate planning. This can lead to unexpected consequences for their heirs, such as paying more taxes than necessary, losing valuable deductions or credits, or having to liquidate assets to cover tax liabilities. A common estate planning mistake is forgetting about taxes on different types of assets, such as retirement accounts, life insurance policies, or capital gains.

  1. Forgetting About the Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone to act on your behalf in financial and legal matters. It can be useful if you become incapacitated or unable to manage your own affairs. However, many people forget to include a Power of Attorney in their estate plan, which can cause problems for their loved ones and beneficiaries. For example, without a Power of Attorney, your family may have to go through a costly and time-consuming court process to get the authority to manage your assets and debts. Additionally, without a Power of Attorney, you may lose control over who makes decisions for you and how your wishes are carried out. Therefore, it is important to have a Power of Attorney as part of your estate plan and to review it periodically to ensure that it reflects your current situation and preferences.

  1. Forgetting About Your Digital Assets

Many people do not realize that their digital assets, such as digital files, online accounts, and social media profiles, are part of their estate and need to be planned for accordingly. Forgetting about your digital assets can lead to several problems, such as identity theft, legal disputes, loss of access, and privacy breaches. To avoid these issues, you should create an inventory of your digital assets, designate a digital executor, and provide clear instructions on how to access and manage your digital assets after your death.

  1. Getting Too Specific

Many people think that estate planning is only about making a will and naming beneficiaries. However, estate planning is much more than that. It is also about creating a comprehensive plan that covers different aspects of your life, such as finances, health care, legacy, and taxes. Getting too specific in your estate plan can cause problems for you and your loved ones. For example, if you specify a certain amount of money for each of your children, you may not account for changes in their needs, inflation, or unexpected expenses. If you specify a certain person to make decisions for you in case of incapacity, you may not consider the possibility that they may become unavailable, unfit, or unwilling to act on your behalf. If you specify a certain charity to receive a portion of your estate, you may not be aware of their current activities, reputation, or impact. Therefore, it is important to be adaptable and flexible in your estate plan, and to review it regularly to make sure it reflects your current circumstances and wishes.

  1. Improperly Funding Your Trust

A trust is a legal arrangement that allows you to transfer your assets to a trustee, who will manage them for the benefit of your beneficiaries. A trust can help you avoid probate, protect your privacy, provide for your loved ones, and reduce estate taxes. However, if you do not fund your trust properly, you may lose some of these advantages and create problems for your estate plan. Improperly funding your trust means that you do not transfer some or all of your assets to the trust, or that you do not update the title or beneficiary designation of your assets to reflect the trust. This can result in your assets being subject to creditors, estate taxes, probate, or unwanted heirs. Therefore, it is important to fund your trust correctly and review it regularly to ensure that it reflects your current situation and wishes.

  1. Naming Just One (1) Beneficiary

Many people think that naming just one beneficiary for their estate is a simple and straightforward way to avoid probate and ensure that their assets go to their desired heir. However, this can create legal and financial problems for the beneficiary and the estate. The following are five (5) reasons why naming just one beneficiary is not a good idea:

  1. The beneficiary may die before the estate owner, leaving the estate without a clear successor;
  2. The beneficiary may face tax consequences or penalties for receiving a large lump sum of money, especially if the estate is not carefully planned or structured;
  3. The beneficiary may have creditors or lawsuits that can claim a portion of the estate, reducing the amount that the estate owner intended to leave for them;
  4. The beneficiary may have personal or marital issues that can affect their ability to manage or inherit the estate, such as addiction, disability, divorce, or incapacity.
  5. The beneficiary may not share the estate owner’s values or wishes and may use the estate in ways that the estate owner would not approve of.

To avoid these potential pitfalls, it is advisable to name more than one beneficiary for your estate.

  1. Not Being Specific Enough

If you leave ambiguous or vague instructions in your will or trust, you may create conflict, confusion, or litigation among your heirs and beneficiaries. For example, if you say that you want to leave your property to your children, but you do not specify how to divide it or what to do in case of a dispute, you may cause disagreement or resentment among them. To avoid this problem, you should be as clear and detailed as possible when drafting your estate plan. You should also review and update it regularly to reflect any changes in your circumstances or preferences.

  1. Not Securing Your Estate Plan

This means that you do not have a will, trust, or other legal documents that specify how your assets and liabilities will be distributed after your death. Without a secure estate plan, you risk leaving your loved ones with confusion, potential conflicts, and uncertainty. You also lose control over who will inherit your property, who will make decisions for you if you become incapacitated, and who will manage your affairs. A secure estate plan can help you avoid these problems and ensure that your wishes are honored and respected.

  1. Not Thinking About Your Children’s Future

If you do not have a will or a trust, your assets will be distributed according to state laws, which may not reflect your wishes or your children’s needs. For example, if you have minor children, they may inherit your property at age 18, which may be too young for them to manage it responsibly. Or, if you have children with special needs, they may lose their eligibility for government benefits if they receive a large inheritance. By thinking about your children’s futures, you can create an estate plan that protects them and ensures that they receive the guidance and support they need.

  1. Updating Your Plan Too Infrequently

Estate planning is not a one-time event, but a dynamic process that should reflect your current situation and goals. If you fail to update your plan regularly, you may miss important opportunities to minimize taxes, protect your assets, and provide for your loved ones. Some of the reasons why you should update your plan include changes in your family, finances, health, laws, or personal preferences.

It is important to consult with an estate planning attorney who can help you design a comprehensive, customized, and tax-efficient plan that reflects your circumstances, charitable goals and values, and preserves your legacy. Please feel free to call (405) 724-2525 to schedule an initial consultation with me.

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