You can, likely, benefit from the mistakes of others. For your review, here are 17 common estate planning traps to avoid. If any of these mistakes seem to apply to you, consult with an experienced, qualified estate planning attorney. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (Benjamin Franklin.)
- Dying without a legally valid, effective will or trust.
- Not having a recent, comprehensive financial/general durable power of attorney in place.
- Failing to own your assets properly.
- Failing to update your estate plan periedically or upon the occurrence of a significant (e.g. change of health, wealth, or family situations) life event.
- Owning assets in joint tenancy with right of survivorship.
- Leaving everything, outright, to your spouse.
- Failing to name a guardian for minor children.
- Naming minor children as beneficiaries.
- Failing to implement a business succession plan.
- Trying to disinherit a spouse or child by not naming him or her in your will or trust.
- Failing to provide cash in your estate to pay taxes, debts, last expenses, or equalize your estate.
- Owning your life insurance in your own name.
- Failing to name contingent trusted helpers in your estate planning documents.
- Failing to name first responders to stay with your minor children if there is an emergency.
- Failing to execute a stand-by guardian authorization.
- Not telling your trusted helpers and loved ones that you have engaged in estate planning and where your documents, passwords, and important papers are kept.
- Not getting a waiver from your spouse to name your trust or another individual as the beneficiary of your retirement plan at work (401k or 403b.)
If any of these estate planning traps may apply to you, your family, or your estate plan or you don’t fully understand what they mean, consult with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney who will be happy to answer your estate planning questions and address your concerns.