We all know how important it is to have some form of estate plan in place, be it a Will or a Trust. In the event of the unexpected, an estate plan can help protect you and make sure your wishes are carried out in regard to your heirs and beneficiaries. However, estate planning can be a complicated process and all your planning could be ruined if you make a mistake or miss a crucial step. Because of the complex nature of estate planning, there are many things that could go wrong, but here are some common mistakes to avoid.
Not preparing for the possibility of incapacitation is a common mistake people make when estate planning. We all know that someday we will die and what happens after our death is often the focus of our estate planning. We want to know that our assets will be distributed in the ways we wish after our death and we do our best to make sure that our beneficiaries can avoid probate court. But, we often forget to plan for other unexpected events, such as incapacitation. What happens if you no longer have the ability to make decisions on your own behalf? Do your loved ones know how to handle the situation? Do they know what you would want done? A thorough and complete estate plan will address these potential events. You will have clearly identified who is authorized to make decisions on your behalf when it comes to finances and health care. If you wait until the unexpected happens, it is too late. Make sure you prepare for incapacity during the estate planning process.
Forgetting to include your funeral and burial plans in your estate plan is another common mistake. If you have made funeral plans and arranged for a burial plot, make sure to include that in your estate plan rather than making your family search for this important information when you are gone. If you have not yet made funeral or burial plans, you should think about what you want to happen and include those wishes in your estate plan. Don’t make your family guess as to what you would have wanted. You don’t want your loved ones to have to struggle to come up with a plan after you are gone and you really don’t want your funeral arrangements to become an issue that has to be resolved in probate court. You should make sure you delegate in your estate plan who you would like to be in charge of your funeral arrangements and discuss your wishes with that person ahead of time. You also may want to talk to a professional about the specific burial/funeral laws where you live so that you understand more about what will happen when you pass. That way, you can work to prevent any potential issues beforehand.
Many people also make the mistake of not naming backup decision-makers in their estate plan. Unfortunately life is full of surprises and we never know how things may play out, even when we try to make plans ahead of time. What if you and your designated decision-maker die at the same time due to some unforeseen accident? Unexpected disasters can happen and that is why it is important to have a backup plan. If you fail to name a backup, and your first choice is unable to fulfill their obligations for whatever reason, a court will have to appoint a substitute person for you. You can avoid this by naming backups for your beneficiaries, for your executors, and for any other important decision makers when you are putting together your estate plan.
As you can see, estate planning is a complicated process and these are just a few of the common mistakes that can be made. It might seem daunting to try to understand all the possible mistakes and figure out how to avoid them. But you don’t have to do it alone! The estate planning professionals at Horn & Johnsen are here to help. Visit our website to learn more about us and contact us today to set up an appointment to discuss your estate planning needs: https://hornjohnsen.com/contact-us/