It’s safe to say that estate planning is about the farthest down on the list of things people want to do in their spare time. Nobody wants to think about what happens when they cease to be a part of this world, and that’s understandable. At the same time, it’s probably accurate to say that when you pass, you want your family to benefit from your hard work and have a legacy to remember you by, without having to go through the hassle of an extensive probate process and legal battles. The best way to show your family that you love and care for them is to ensure that your estate is in order.
A lot of people think that estate plans can be done pretty simply, in a DIY fashion. Honestly, for some people, that might be ok. For most estates though, your loved ones will most likely end up facing more uphill battles than you bargained for. Estate planning is a complex process and a lot of things can be overlooked. Getting your estate plan worked out with the help of an experienced estate planning lawyer can help avoid those common oversights. Here are a few of the top estate planning oversights we see in our practice.
1. Failing to Plan
As we talked about before, failing to make plans for your assets when you pass is a great way to lose a good portion of your legacy to legal fees and taxes. It’s also a great way to encourage infighting within the family about how your assets should be divided. Enabling your family to grieve without the added struggle of wrapping up your estate is a strong message of love.
2. Failing to Assign Contingent Beneficiaries
Too often, people assign assets to beneficiaries that have expressed an interest in that asset or those that we really want to have that asset without considering the possibility of that beneficiary passing before they do. If that happens, and you have not assigned a contingent beneficiary, the asset will either be assigned by a court or other family members, perhaps with a bit of arguing along the way. For every asset that you have, you should assign a second beneficiary to inherit in the event that your primary beneficiary does not survive you or does not survive you within a specified period of time.
3. Failing to Add Appropriate Assets to a Trust
Certain high-value assets lend themselves to being trust assets. These items include things like homes, luxury items, artwork, and other expensive assets. When an asset is overlooked and not included into the trust res, that asset must go through probate. This will mean a longer and more expensive probate process. Consulting with an experienced estate planning lawyer will help you ensure all appropriate assets are included in your trust.
4. Failing to Keep Track of Digital Assets
So much of our lives are managed on the web, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, buying and selling, social media, and other networking and communications services. When we pass on, we leave these digital ghosts out there that can sometimes come back to haunt our families, either because of lack of access, fraud or other identity theft. Keeping a spreadsheet of all of your digital accounts, including usernames, passwords, account numbers, and security questions is a great way to assist your loved ones in managing your digital assets once you pass.
5. Failing to Update Estate Planning Documents
Estate planning documents should be reviewed once a year and whenever a significant life event occurs, such as a birth, death or marriage. Without these updates, many of your documents can be open for challenge.
Don’t let your estate get overlooked. Contact our office today for a free consultation.