Common Estate Planning Mistakes & How To Avoid The Pitfalls
Creating an estate plan is the best way to pass property and other assets to your loved ones in a manner that you believe is best suited for you and your family. Unfortunately, the majority of adults in the United States do not have a will, and those who do often make serious mistakes that render the will invalid or impractical. If you want to be sure that your final wishes are executed properly, you must spend time creating and updating an estate plan with an experienced attorney who can provide accurate and reliable legal advice. If you attempt to create and implement such an important legal document, without the proper assistance, you increase your chances of making one of these four common estate planning mistakes.
Review Your Estate Plan to Ensure That it is Up to Date
The majority of people who invest time and money to create a last will and testament and other estate planning instruments do not properly review their estate plan to ensure that it is up to date and applicable to changed situations and circumstances. It is possible that your last will and testament may not require changes over the years; however, it is very likely that major life events and changes in circumstances may be overlooked, which likely will create problems for your loved ones after you are gone. Those who neglect to update their estate plans throughout their lifetimes, often times accidentally omit after-born children and/or grandchildren; name people who predecease them; and/or choose a personal representative who they no longer trust. The mere passage of time is reason enough to review your estate planning documents to ensure that these important documents remain applicable and coincide with your current intentions.
Your Will Does Not Impact Non-Probate Assets, such as Life Insurance Policies
An asset that several folks maintain is a life insurance policy. Life insurance policies ordinarily designate a primary beneficiary or beneficiaries – the person or persons who will receive all or some of a specified sum of money after the policyholder passes away – and a secondary beneficiary – in the event that the primary designee(s) predeceases the policyholder. Typically, beneficiaries to these policies are spouses, children, siblings, and/or parents. A person who has recently gotten divorced or who is estranged from a relative may no longer wish for that person to receive any part of a life insurance policy. However, instead of updating the beneficiary designations with the life insurance company, and without consulting an experienced estate planning attorney, a policyholder sometimes names a recipient of the policy proceeds in their will. Unbeknownst to some policyholders, life insurance companies are required to pay proceeds to the named beneficiary in the policy, even if the designation is contrary to the directives in one’s will. So, while you need to update and review your last will and testament, you also need to review all non-probate assets, such as life insurance policies, annuities, and retirement accounts, to ensure that your beneficiary designations also remain applicable and coincide with your current intentions.
Keep a Detailed List of Your Assets with Your Important Estate Planning Documents
While leaving assets to family members and loved ones is thoughtful, if your loved ones do not know where these assets are located or how to find them, receiving an inheritance may turn into a nightmare. Without a detailed list of information on your accounts, real and personal property, and other assets, your personal representative and beneficiaries likely will have to conduct their own search. Not only is searching for assets very time consuming and often times frustrating, it also is possible that some assets will go undiscovered for years. Keep a detailed list of your assets with your important estate planning documents, to ensure that all of your assets are passed on to your loved ones.
Name a Trustworthy and Reliable Personal Representative of Your Estate
The personal representative of your estate is the person who is responsible for paying your debts, filing your inheritance tax return, and distributing your assets to your named beneficiaries. Being named an executor or executrix is considered an honor, but it also is a serious position that can be unbelievably time consuming. Naming a child or relative simply because they are oldest, or perhaps the favorite, is not always the best idea. If the person you name as the personal representative of your estate is disliked, not capable of doing the job, or not trusted by your beneficiaries and other loved ones, then your family could seek to have him or her removed from the position. This is not only time consuming and expensive, it also can take its toll on your family for many years to come.
Get Answers to All of Your Questions – Contact Zwick Law
Estate planning is an important, proactive measure that you can take to preserve your legacy and ensure that your assets stay with and benefit your family after you are gone. When you are ready to create or update your estate plan, consulting with an estate planning and estate administration attorney is highly beneficial. The trusted attorneys at Zwick Law are available to help you determine the best ways to distribute your estate and protect your assets long into the future. Contact us today to schedule a free and confidential consultation at either our DuBois or Brookville office.
For questions relating to your estate planning needs, contact either C.J. Zwick or Matthew R. Zwick at (814) 371-6400. At Zwick Law, we’re always here for you.
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