Estate planning is one of the most complicated and emotionally stressful legal ventures you will embark on during your lifetime. Whether you have a modest estate, or a multi-million dollar estate, the concept is the same, and the decisions that have to be made are the same. Who will receive your estate assets? How and when will they receive them? How can I avoid probate and estate taxes? These are all common questions and concerns when estate planning. No one wants to risk making a mistake in their estate plan, but is an error free estate plan possible? With careful planning, forethought and competent legal advice, an estate plan free from any significant errors is certainly possible.
Some of the more common mistakes people make when estate planning can be easily avoided. For starters, make sure that you create your estate plan early on in life and then be sure to review and revise your plan often.
Don’t wait until the last minute and rely solely on a Last Will and Testament to gift all of your estate assets to loved ones. This strategy may incur estate taxes and may well require a lengthy and expense probate process. Make use of estate planning tools now to start slowly gifting assets and avoid probate.
Try to resist the urge to keep beneficiaries on too tight of a lease. When you create a trust, make sure that your trustee actually has the discretion to pay out the trust assets at some point. Finally, keep your emotions out of important decisions. Gift fairly, but appropriately, and be sure to make decisions based on sound financial management, not just on emotional attachments.
You can greatly increase the chances of eliminating errors in your estate plan if you avoid the temptation to seek the cheapest estate planning assistance you can find. There are a number of self-help books, CDs and Internet web sites where one can fill in some basic information and out pops what may or may not be a valid will or trust. The sad truth about these boilerplate one-size-fits-all documents is that they result in unnecessary litigation and court procedures at far greater numbers than properly created documents by an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney.
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