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Avoiding common estate planning mistakes

Estate planning is a complex process, and that is why it is advisable to seek help from a professional from start to finish. As we discussed in our last post about the woman whose will was ineffective because she downloaded it offline and did not seek additional advice, these types of mistakes can render a lifetime of careful planning null. There are few common mistakes that people may make when they first set out to create an estate plan, and we’ll talk about a few of those in this post. 

First, don’t overlook the importance not just of having a plan in place, but having the right people in place. Appointing trustworthy and competent fiduciaries for things like health care proxies and someone to have durable power of attorney is essential, since those individuals will make big decisions in the event of your incapacity. The same goes for trustees and estate executors, who will be very important in carrying out one’s final wishes.

Another issue that is important to remember to keep in mind is what you do with assets like retirement accounts and life insurance, which typically have their own beneficiaries. No matter what is written in a will or trust document, these accounts and polices will go to whoever is named on the policy or account itself. This is why it is crucial not to overlook changes to beneficiaries when a major life event occurs, such as a divorce or the birth of a child that impacts who should be listed.

Source: CNBC, “The 5 biggest estate-planning blunders,” Shelly Schawartz, April 14, 2014.

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