Common Mistakes in the Estate Planning Process

Estate planning is not just for the wealthy. If you have any assets at all, then you will need to create a personalized estate plan that will let you determine how your assets will be distributed upon your death. If you fail to create an estate plan, the decision will then rest with state law, and your family will have to abide by someone else’s wishes. While the largest mistake in the estate planning process is not having a plan, there are several other common mistakes that you should avoid as you begin your estate planning.

  • Failure to Make Revisions in Writing. If you already have an estate plan, you are already ahead of the game. However, life changes happen all the time that may make you consider changing or revising your will or trust. If you recently entered into a new marriage, divorce, birth, or death of a family member, you may need to visit your estate plan. As you make your revisions, make sure that you do so in writing, and according to state laws, otherwise they may not be considered a valid modification to your will or trust.
  • Choosing a Trustee Hastily. The person you choose to be your trustee will be handling all of your finances after your death. Choose this person wisely. Some people even choose to pick a trustee that is a neutral third party as a back up if you do not have a person you trust. Whoever you choose, do so wisely, and make sure they will be responsible caretakers of the distribution of your estate.
  • Failing to Consider Your Own Disability. While most people consider estate planning to be the distribution of assets after their death, oftentimes there are circumstances that would require you to appoint a trustee over your own assets prior to your death. If you include a trust in your estate plan, you may be able to assign your responsibilities to a trustee during your lifetime to distribute and handle your assets, including for yourself and your medical expenses.
  • Forgetting a Residuary Clause. Always make sure that your will and/or trust has a residuary clause. This clause is a “catch-all” that will govern any property that may have been overlooked unintentionally, and not disposed of properly within a will and/or trust.
  • Failing to Consider Income Taxes. Death and taxes are inevitable. The current federal and state law has changed to minimize estate taxes, but your estate could be subject to federal or state taxes, or even both. Make sure to structure your estate plan in such a way that your assets are taxes as minimally as possible after your death.
  • Failing to Visit with Family About Your Wishes.  After you have made your decisions and created your estate plan, you should visit with those closest to you regarding your wishes. Your death will likely be devastating for those you love, and making your wishes known ahead of time, along with indicating where all of your paperwork is located, will only make the process easier on your loved ones.
  • Never Consulting with an Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer. As stated earlier, the most serious and costly mistake people make regarding estate planning is not consulting with an experienced estate planning lawyer.

If you want to make sure your wishes are upheld regarding your estate after your death, contact the legal team at Dworken & Bernstein at 440-352.3391 or online today for your free consultation.

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