4 Mistakes to Avoid When Creating an Estate Plan
Learning about estate planning can be confusing since there is so much misinformation out there. Simply, estate planning allows you to legally appoint agents to act for you if you cannot act for yourself, and it allows you to document your wishes as to your end of life decisions, and how you would like your belongings to be distributed to your heirs at your death. It does require some time and effort to put in place; however, getting it done will give you peace of mind knowing that your affairs are in order. Additionally, once you do have an estate plan in place, typically you will only need to make minor changes as your life changes. You can think of the process of estate planning like the process of building a new home. Initially, you need to start with a solid foundation. Then, build the roof and all of its supports. This is a lot of work in the beginning, but if you’ve done a good job with the initial construction, you only need to renovate once in a while. No one wants to spend their time on this kind of planning, but if you don’t plan, you may create headaches for your loved ones not just when you pass away, but also while you are living. It’s very important to do your estate plan based on your objectives and current situation, and to update your plan as your life changes.
Here is the list of mistakes you should avoid when creating an estate plan:
- Thinking you are too young or that you do not have enough assets to make plan – An initial estate plan will give you a solid foundation to allow the people you care about to act for you if they need to in the event you cannot act for yourself—especially for medical and financial decisions. Then, you can update your plan as your life changes (e.g., you get married, have children, and/or acquire a house).
- Generating a trust but not funding it – This is a common mistake. Think of a trust like a big empty box. When you fill it with assets, the trustee manages whatever assets you put in the box. During your lifetime, you are the trustee of your trust, but if you become incapacitated or die, then your successor trustee takes over and manages what is in the box. If you fail to put your assets in the box, your successor trustee might have to go through a court process to bring assets into the trust. This costs time and money for your beneficiaries. Therefore, when you make a trust, review your assets and retitle what you can to be in the name of the trust, and as you acquire new assets, be sure to add them to the trust.
- Depending on an estate planning Internet form – The internet offers both good and bad estate planning forms. Even in some situations a good form may be regarded as bad for the client if it is not suitable for the client’s particular situation. So, a Google search is not a recommended solution and definitely not a substitute for a law degree and years of experience.
- Not understanding the benefits of an estate plan – An ideal estate plan includes documents that do not just serve you when you die, but also work for you when you are living, such as the power of attorney for financial affairs. This document allows you to appoint an agent not just to pay bills for you, but they can also act for you in all the little things in life you just don’t think about, like if there was an issue with your electric bill or someone stole your credit card information. Your agent would be able to handle these issues for you if you were incapacitated.
If you avoid these common estate planning mistakes, you can relax knowing that your future self will thank you, as well as your loved ones. If you have any other questions about estate planning, please contact our office for a complimentary consultation.