It is a grim topic, but it is an important one. Let’s talk about death. Specifically–have you planned what will happen after yours? Without a legal will in place, your loved ones may spend years stuck in court proceedings and spend a lot in legal fees to settle your estate. The San Diego Tribune writes in its recent article, “6 estate-planning mistakes to avoid,” that without a plan, everything is more stressful and expensive. Let’s look at the top six estate-planning mistakes that people need to avoid:
No Plan. Regardless of your age or financial status, it’s critical to have a basic estate plan. This includes crafting powers of attorney for both healthcare and finances and a living will.
No Discussion. Once you create your plan, tell your family. Those you’ve named to take care of you, need to know what you’ve decided and where to find your plan.
Focusing Only on Taxes. Estate planning can be much more than just about tax avoidance. There are many other reasons to create an estate plan that have nothing to do with taxes, like charitable giving, special needs planning for a family member, succession planning in the event of incapacity, and planning for children of a prior marriage, to name just a few.
Leaving Assets Directly to Children. If you leave assets directly to your children or grandchildren under age 18, it can cause unintended custodian or guardianship issues. Minors can’t own legal property, so a guardian will be appointed by the court to manage the property for them until they reach age 18. If you don’t name a guardian, the court will appoint one for you and that person may have very different ideas about how the account should be managed and invested.
Making Mistakes with Ownership and Property Titles. With many blended families, you may want to preserve assets from an inheritance as your own separate property or from a prior marriage for your children. There are many tax consequences and control issues in blended families about which you may not be aware.
Messing Up Your Trust. Many people don’t properly fund or update their trusts. An unfunded trust doesn’t do anyone any good. Assets that aren’t titled in the name of the trust don’t avoid probate.
Finally, be sure to review your estate plan regularly, as your circumstances change.
At Estate Law Partners, LLC, our attorneys focus on estate planning, probate and trust administration, and elder law. To request a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, we invite you to submit our online form.