What are the most common estate planning mistakes? No matter your income or how much property you own, an estate plan is crucial to ensuring everything you own is distributed according to your wishes after your death. Even more important than making sure you have an estate plan is to make sure your plan is drafted thoroughly and accurately. An experienced estate planning lawyer like Mark Gullotta can help you begin this process by discussing your options and helping you avoid many common estate planning mistakes. Mark can help you understand estate planning options such as a will, a trust, powers of attorney, transfer on death deeds, and other similar documents and tools.
MOST COMMON ESTATE PLANNING MISTAKES
Neglecting to Create an Estate Plan
The first mistake many people in California often make is failing to create an estate plan at all. Many people may not wish to think about their death and may fail to make adequate provisions. Wills or trusts generally provide for who will receive your property or assets when you pass away, while having no estate plan may often leave it to state law to decide who will get your property.
This mistake is the easiest to avoid, as it only requires you to speak with an experienced estate attorney to begin drafting a plan that best fits your needs. Death is often unexpected, and a thorough estate plan is necessary, even at an early age, to make sure your property is taken care of according to your wishes.
Forgetting to Update Your Will
It may often be easy to draft a Will and then fail ever to update the Will even after any significant life changes such as a divorce, the birth of your children, significant changes in the property you own, or similar factors. Many people may absent-mindedly fail to review their Will with their estate planning attorney periodically or may simply assume that the Will can sufficiently dispose of their property despite any changes such as new property purchases or sales.
While having a Will is an important step, you must also continue to make sure that you keep it updated to reflect changes in your life. This includes adding new beneficiaries such as children or grandchildren born after the original Will was drafted. An attorney can help you update your Will to accommodate any changes in your circumstances.
Failing to Provide for A Disability
Another common mistake many people may make is to fail to prepare for an unexpected disability. Disabilities may often be devastating to you, as well as to your family. However, suppose you suffer a severe disability that hinders you and have not adequately planned for such a possibility. In that case, you could have no say in how your finances will be handled, how your healthcare decisions are made, or even who will raise your children. If you are mentally or physically incapacitated and your estate plan failed to provide for this possibility, both you and your family could face additional difficulties in caring for you as well as in handling your property.
If you wait until you suffer an incapacity, it may be too late for you to have the ability to make any such changes. To avoid this mistake, you should be sure to ask your estate planning attorney for options to provide for a future disability. This preparation must be done in advance, as estate planning requires your consent and understanding of the estate plan when you sign it.
WHY YOU SHOULD AVOID DIY ESTATE PLANNING OPTIONS
In addition to these common mistakes, many people are increasingly making the mistake of trying “do it yourself” estate planning options instead of consulting an experienced attorney to help guide them through the best options for creating an estate plan. The California Probate Code can be very complicated. Failure to meet various requirements within the Probate Code correctly could lead to invalidations of documents and cause the estate plan to be unusable or result in unexpected consequences. Indeed, mistakes could lead to higher taxes on your estate as well as unnecessary probate costs or attorneys’ fees.
Many DIY legal documents such as wills or trust may be general templates used in various states. They may often fail to meet specific state law requirements, especially in a state like California with a complex probate code. Even the addition of a short phrase or even one or two words can drastically alter the effect of legal documents and the potential tax implications of the document. For example, trusts must be carefully worded to achieve the intended effect. Even a small change can suddenly cause that trust to incur tax obligations that could have been avoided.
By consulting an experienced California estate planning lawyer like Mark Gullotta, you can be confident that your estate plan will be drafted correctly and serve your interests while carrying out your wishes. Mark can also ensure that your plan complies with applicable requirements under the California Probate Code.