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Common mistakes with estate planning

June 1, 2017


There is no right or wrong way to go about crafting an estate plan. Everyone's circumstances and goals are different. Nevertheless, here are some of the mistakes that I often see made: 


(1)  Doing nothing. In some respects, estate planning is like pruning: The biggest mistake you can make is to do nothing at all. When it comes to estate planning, any amount of planning -- no matter how small -- is better than no planning at all. 


The solution:  Do something.


(2)  Being overwhelmed. This is actually related to the first one. There are a lot of things to consider in estate planning: planning for distributions on death, asset protection, tax planning, care for your minor children, appointing trustees and executors, planning for your incapacity, etc. Being overwhelmed with too many things to think about can sometimes deter us from dealing with the process altogether.


The solution:  Don't allow yourself to get overwhelmed. Talk with an attorney (free of charge) to help you figure out which issues you should address now, and which ones you can re-visit in the future. Sometimes staying within your estate-planning budget can help you narrow things down immensely.


(3)  Failing to change your plan later. Your estate plan might be perfect for your goals and circumstances now, but your circumstances might change in the future. You might get married, re-marry, have grandchildren, or have unforeseen new priorities.


The solution:  Take a little time in the future to review your estate plan with your attorney to make sure that your goals and wishes are still being met by your estate plan. Side note: When you retain The Chevalier Law Firm, you are entitled to free annual reviews of your estate plan for the first three years.


(4)  Not telling others about your estate plan. You have a new estate plan with, among other things, a revocable trust. Then you pass away 40 years later. Who knows you had the trust in the first place? Even if someone knows about it, how will she get a copy of it? If you kept your trust a secret, your family (and the courts) will believe that you died without an estate plan at all (this is called dying intestate).


The solution: Having an estate plan is nothing to be secretive about. Tell at least a few people that you now have an estate plan. Maybe give a copy of the relevant documents to one or two people you trust, or at least give instructions on where copies will be kept. 


(5)  Failing to fund your trust. If your estate plan includes a revocable trust, you will need to fund the trust in order to let it do its job. This means you will need to transfer title to your trust for most or all of your important assets. If you don't, those assets will not be owned by the trust when you pass away, which means a probate case will need to be opened to administer them. Avoiding probate court is one of the points of having a trust in the first place.


The solution:  Pay attention to the detailed instructions provided to you when it comes to funding your trust. If you have any questions or need help, just call your attorney.    



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