Avoid These 5 Estate Planning Mistakes

The reality of aging and possibly giving up independence someday is hard, but estate planning and making decisions now can give both you and your family the steps to take through a last illness and eventual death. The loved ones we leave behind are the most important things to most people I talk to. With the help of an estate planning attorney, you can avoid some of the most common mistakes people make during the estate planning process.

1.  Incomplete Plans

The logistics of estate planning can be daunting and include legal phrases difficult to apply to your situation. The process is not intuitive, and it’s easy to forget important considerations along the way. Some parts of your estate can be simply brushed over as you believe they were previously taken care of. Others might forget about partial ownership in what becomes an important asset. Or, if you try to plan your estate all on your own, mistakes can be made by omission of a step specific to your state. Incomplete estate plans ultimately fall back on your family, creating more work for them when you are incapacitated or gone. Hiring an attorney can help you avoid these common issues. You and your attorney can work together to develop and review a comprehensive plan. Accuracy and completion are going to benefit your family the most.

2.  Not Planning at All

No matter how old you are, if you are over 18, it is never a bad time to start planning your estate. Putting it off too long could have consequences. If you don’t plan at all, the court will decide where your assets go according to Minnesota law. In this circumstance, your beneficiaries will not be up to you. You will have no control over where your assets go or in what percentages after your passing.  This can result in unintended beneficiaries.

3.  Choosing Beneficiaries

Most married people choose their spouse as their primary beneficiary and their children as their secondary or contingent beneficiaries. However, there are many blended families where an estate plan is important to define who is included in my children.  Additionally, when you have children as named beneficiaries, it is important to detail when and how they receive assets.  For example, if you pass away before your child turns 18, you can include provisions for the assets to be held in a trust and used for the child’s benefit until the child attains an age you would want them to receive an outright distribution of assets.

For unmarried people, those without children, or individuals who wish to leave assets for someone other than a spouse or child, it is imperative to have a valid estate plan to provide for those individuals not related to you by marriage or birth.

4.  Not Keeping Your Estate Plan Up to Date

As life changes, so should your will and estate plans. Part of the estate planner’s job is to help you plan for the unexpected in life. It is a best practice to review your plan regularly and update your plan with the big “D” life events: Divorce or marriage, Death or birth of someone important to the plan, a major medical Diagnosis, Disability of you or someone important to your plan, or every Decade.  In addition to changes in your life, there are also changes and updates to the state laws which could impact your previous estate planning documents. An estate planning attorney can ensure that your estate plan is organized in accordance with current laws.

5.  Neglecting Difficult Decisions

Almost nobody wants to think about their death or to plan for it, but making decisions now to plan for that eventuality can actually ease your mind. Mortality is not within your control, but you can plan your legacy.  The logistics of a final illness and death are a strain on the loved ones left behind.  In addition to estate planning documents, another way you can ease some of the strain is by making funeral and burial plans ahead of time. Your loved ones want your wishes to be granted. By putting your specific wishes in writing, your family and friends will have some peace of mind they are doing what you would want done. It also minimizes arguing about what you would have wanted because you have made your wishes clear and enforceable.

Estate planning can preserve your legacy and will save money and time for your loved ones when your time comes.