These common estate planning mistakes happen more often than you may think. Many don’t realize that estate plans aren’t only for the wealthy or unhealthy. Your will is more than just a piece of paper—it’s a roadmap for your assets, guardianship, and debts after you’re gone, or in emergency situations. There are many common estate planning mistakes that could lead to legal and financial headaches for your loved ones. Let’s break down these estate planning mistakes and learn how to sidestep them.
Common Estate Planning Mistakes & How to Avoid Them in Your Own Plan
1. Lack of a Will:
- Many Americans don’t have a will, with procrastination and the belief of insufficient assets being the primary reasons.
- Everyone over the age of 18 needs some estate planning documents to spare their family from unnecessary suffering. Even if you don’t have significant wealth, or you’re perfectly healthy, you never know when an emergency may happen.
2. Co-Executors Chaos:
- Assigning multiple co-executors can lead to disagreements and conflicts.
- Estate planning attorneys recommend having one primary executor and alternate executors to avoid family in-fighting.
- If you decide to have more than one executor, choose an odd number so there needs to be majority-rule on any tough decisions.
3. Relying Solely on a Will:
- Believing that a will alone can bypass the probate process is a misconception.
- Probate may still be necessary for assets titled solely in your name without beneficiary designations.
- Consult with an estate planning professional in your area to ensure the key ways to protect your assets and loved ones from the probate process.
4. Vague Sentimental Items:
- Being too general about items with sentimental value can lead to family disputes.
- Specific instructions in the will can prevent disagreements over sentimental belongings.
5. Failure to Update:
- Neglecting to update your will after life events like marriage, divorce, or births is a common mistake.
- Review your estate plan every year to see if anything needs to be updated.
- Failure to update can lead to unintended consequences, like excluding grandchildren if a child named in the will passes away.
6. Inconsiderate Bequests:
- Leaving bequests without careful consideration of the recipients’ maturity and life circumstances can lead to problems.
- Consider the impact of inheritances on college-aged beneficiaries’ financial aid eligibility or midlife beneficiaries’ risks of divorce, creditors, or vices.
7. Missing Instructions:
- Failing to leave clear instructions about where to find your will can cause complications.
- Providing specific information or giving your attorney’s contact details can ease the process for your loved ones.
- Learn how to talk to your family about your estate plan here.
8. Working with Non-Specialists:
- Temptation to work with lawyers outside the estate planning specialty can lead to complications.
- Estate planning is complex, and working with specialists in your area ensures proper navigation of issues.
Don’t let these common estate planning mistakes jeopardize your family’s future. Take the necessary steps to ensure your will and estate plans align with your wishes and stand the test of time.
If you’re in Illinois or Wisconsin, let us help guide you on your estate planning journey. Contact us today.
Disclaimer: This article is intended to serve as a general summary of the issues outlined therein. While this article may include general guidance, it is not intended as, nor is a substitute for, qualified legal advice. Your review or receipt of this article by Lexern Law Offices, Ltd. (the “LLG”) or any of its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the LLG. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors of the article and does not reflect the opinion of the LLG.