Estate planning can be a difficult topic and is likely to touch on unpleasant emotions. However, it is an important part of comprehensive, responsible financial planning. Mistakes can be costly and some pitfalls can be difficult to recognize. In this three-part series, we will explore some of the biggest mistakes individuals can make in estate planning. Learning about these mistakes can help you avoid them and ensure that your estate plan allows you to distribute your assets to your heirs in the way you want.
Not Having an Estate Plan
Unfortunately, many individuals put off estate planning until it is too late. Sometimes, the unexpected can occur and a family can be caught without an estate plan in place. Without a Will, your estate will be subject to distribution based on your state’s intestate succession statutes. Often, this can be a long and difficult process that may also leave your estate open to significant financial penalties from the state and by way of taxes that could have been anticipated and addressed with a comprehensive estate plan. Additionally, a comprehensive estate plan can include documents that spell out your wishes regarding medical care and other significant decisions. In the absence of such documents, it may be difficult to have your wishes carried out.
Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning
As our lives become increasingly more digital, more individuals can gain access to a wealth of legal and other information. There is no shortage of websites offering do-it-yourself legal service forms and guidance. However, it is important to understand that these generic forms rarely address individual concerns. Additionally, they can often be prone to errors that can end up invalidating them, potentially requiring your entire estate to go through probate. While upfront costs may be cheaper than using an experienced estate planning attorney, the potential financial cost of planning your estate without in-person legal guidance can be devastating to your loved ones. Estate planning can be looked at as an investment in your loved ones’ futures, and ensuring that your investment strategy is tailored to your personal needs and wishes is a crucial part of that process. It is not possible to reliably explore all options available to you with do-it-yourself services or websites.
Using a Non-Trusts and Estates Attorney for Estate Planning
While it is true that all attorneys receive a similar general legal education, like doctors they often choose a particular focus to concentrate on. While a divorce attorney may have been amply qualified to handle your family law issue, chances are their practice is focused on family law matters and not on estate planning. Experienced estate planning attorneys keep abreast of changes in state and federal estate planning law that other attorneys may inadvertently overlook. If you are searching for an attorney for a particular purpose like estate planning, it is always a good idea to choose an attorney that focuses their practice on that purpose.