Estate planning means providing for your well-being later in life and directing the distribution of your wealth after your death. Having a plan in place takes the pressure off you and your family when it comes to making financial and long-term-care decisions. It also makes it simpler for your family to deal with management of your property after you pass away.
For an estate plan to accomplish your goals, it must be designed with careful thought and effectuated properly. Here are some common estate planning mistakes to be avoided:
- Creating an incomplete plan — Some people start devising a plan but fail to finish it. For example, they write a simple will but do not include all possible beneficiaries and contingencies. Still other people create a living trust but do not adequately fund it or name a successor trustee to take it over upon their death. Any of these lapses can mean that the estate plan will not be carried out the way the creator intended.
- Waiting too long — The best time to create an estate plan is now. People who wait too long risk leaving a significant burden on loved ones that survive them. Their family members must shoulder the burden of figuring out where assets are located and of going through a lengthy and expensive probate process. Timely estate planning can save them confusion, cost and delay.
- Using online forms or templates — There are multiple websites that offer tools for creating a do-it-yourself will or trust. While these templates may appear to be user-friendly, you may find yourself choosing options that do not serve your objectives and, worse, may conflict with each other or be impossible to carry out. In addition, a DIY will or trust may not stand up under New York law.
- Failing to update — You should review your will, trust and retirement accounts on a regular basis to consider needed revisions to your beneficiaries or to the distributions you have specified. This is especially true if you have become married, divorced or widowed; if you have had more children or if there are any other changes to your family membership. Unless revisions are made and contingencies provided for, some of your bequests may fail or go to the wrong beneficiaries.
- Keeping loved ones in the dark — There should be no surprises for close family members regarding your intentions. You should inform your spouse, children and other beneficiaries about your estate plan in case you become incapacitated or pass away unexpectedly. Also, inform your designated executor and/or trustee. All of these people should know where to find your estate plan documents, including an inventory of your assets and debts, so they can promptly begin the probate process.
At Goldberg Sager & Associates in Brooklyn, New York, our attorneys can develop a comprehensive estate plan that addresses your needs and objectives. Contact us online or call 718-514-9516 to arrange a free initial consultation.