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Top Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

July 5, 2024
So, to leave a legacy for your family and those philanthropic groups you support, you need a comprehensive estate plan—and you need to avoid making mistakes.

Suppose you’ve reached retirement age and have savings, including a 401(k), IRA, investment accounts, home and life insurance policies. Congratulations! While you’ll use these assets during retirement, some of them may end up in your estate. This, according to a recent article from Rocky Mount Telegram, “Avoid these estate planning mistakes,” is why you need an estate plan.

An estate planning attorney will be able to create such a plan. They’ll also know how to avoid common mistakes made by people with less experience. Once you get your information in order, the process isn’t as daunting as you think. Here’s what you need to know to have a successful plan:

Don’t wait until the “right time.” Putting off creating a plan and taking care of the details, like funding a trust or getting documents executed, leaves many people with no plan. Illness and accidents occur without warning. Estate plans address incapacity and distribute assets. If there is no will, your state’s laws of intestacy will determine how to distribute your estate. Contact an estate planning attorney and schedule a meeting sooner, not later.

Neglecting to update an estate plan and related documents. Estate planning isn’t a “set it and forget it” process. Most people’s lives include change—marriage, divorce, moving, etc. Your estate plan needs to change too—to be updated in the event of a large event, like the birth of a second child or grandchild, moving, a change in health or financial status and to take advantage of always-changing tax laws.

Forgetting to update beneficiaries. The number of people leaving generous surprises to people no longer in their lives because they forgot to update their beneficiaries would surprise you. However, it would not surprise an estate planning attorney. People start retirement funds at their first job and forget they assigned someone to receive the assets twenty or thirty years later. Your will only addresses assets in your estate—accounts with beneficiary designations are outside the purview of your will.

Neglecting to fund a trust after it’s been created. This is another common mistake to avoid. The entire estate plan might not achieve your goals if the trust is created and not funded. Assets being moved into the trust need to be retitled, and it takes some attention to detail to ensure that this is all done.

Naming a bad executor. The executor is responsible for carrying out your wishes as expressed in your will, overseeing the distribution of assets, filing estate and final personal taxes and many other tasks. They need to be extremely well organized and financially responsible. Your legacy will be impacted if you choose someone based on family relationships instead of competence.

Most people start this process by consulting with an estate planning attorney. It will take some time and effort on your part. However, imagine your family having to dig through all your records and documents and guess what you wanted to happen. Is that not a pretty picture? A better choice is to start and finish your estate plan with an experienced attorney.

Reference: Rocky Mount Telegram (May 10, 2024) “Avoid these estate planning mistakes”

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