Everyone should have an estate plan, whether it’s a simple will or a detailed and complex one with trusts and strategies for multiple generations. The more care and thought put into the plan, says a recent article, “5 Common Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid” from Kiplinger, the better the outcome. There are some common mistakes you can avoid with a little foreknowledge.
Failing to plan for incapacity. People think about creating wills and trusts with their mortality in mind. However, incapacity planning is just as important, in some cases, more important, than death. A good estate plan identifies the people authorized to make important decisions on your behalf concerning finances, health care and other important issues. It also empowers them to do so with powers of attorney. Once you are unconscious or otherwise incapacitated, you can no longer legally assign someone else to act on your behalf. Preparing for others to make decisions for you should not be overlooked.
Neglecting funeral and burial wishes. If you were kind enough to purchase a burial plot and make funeral plans, don’t make your children have to conduct a scavenger hunt. Talk with them about it and tell them where they can find the deed to your plot and the contract with the funeral home. Name a point person who will be in charge of the funeral and burial arrangements and make sure they know your wishes. If you want to be cremated, make it clear to loved ones. The more information you share before your death, the more likely your wishes will be followed.
Not considering the tax implications of transferring property. Don’t leave your loved ones a huge tax bill. It may seem generous to gift property to heirs during your lifetime. However, in many instances, giving when you have passed will create a far smaller tax burden. Your estate planning attorney will work with you to determine how to minimize taxes and maximize your gifts.
Name back-ups for key decision makers. The unthinkable happens. Spouses perish in the same accidents. If no secondary beneficiary has been named, who inherits the estate? Name additional and alternative beneficiaries in case of unfortunate occurrences. You should name a backup executor, financial power of attorney and health care agent. If a person named in your estate documents cannot fulfill their role because of death, incapacity or other reason, the court will name substitutes.
Forgetting to clarify and update beneficiary designations. If your will says you want all of your children to get an equal share of your estate, but one child is on a joint investment account and another is on a Payable Upon Death checking account, you’ve created potential disputes. It’s important to list out the beneficiaries, their asset shares and create a directive to your bank to set the interests in your accounts upon your death. Your bank may require you to change how accounts are titled to achieve your goals. Therefore, you should take care of this while you are living, so you can make any needed changes.
Now is the best time to speak with an expert estate planning attorney.
Reference: Kiplinger (Oct. 20, 2022) “5 Common Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid”