Estate planning isn’t something that many people like to think about. Whether they’ve been misled by a common misconception that estate planning is only for the rich and elderly, or they simply don’t want to plan for a future they won’t be a part of, it often falls short on their to-do list. However, estate planning can make the difference between peace of mind for your loved ones and financial jeopardy during an already difficult time. It’s important that you are proactive in planning for the future so that everything and everyone you love will be protected. It’s crucial to not only create an estate plan, but avoid making mistakes that can cost you down the road. Below are 7 mistakes you might be making when it comes to creating your estate plan, so that you can have a strong understanding of what to avoid during the process.
As mentioned above, many people procrastinate creating an estate plan because they believe it isn’t for them or that it can be done at a later point in time. However, it’s imperative for you to begin estate planning now while you’re in good health and able to make informed decisions about the future of your assets, property, and especially minor children (if you have them). If you wait until it’s too late, the intestate succession laws in Georgia will take precedence. These laws indicate that without the presence of a will, your assets will be passed to your closest relative. Many people want their immediate family to get there belongings, so this might not be a problem for you, but you may also have a strained relationship with your relatives and prefer that your assets go to someone else. If you don’t want your hard-earned possessions ending up in the wrong hands, and your loved ones facing additional stress, legal complications, and higher costs in the probate process, you need to begin the estate planning process.
- Failing To Update Your Plan
Another mistake you might be making during the estate planning process is failing to follow your plan. You might think that creating an estate plan is a one-and-done type situation, but the truth is that there are several instances in which updating your plan is necessary. A few examples include:
- If you get married
- If you get divorced
- If you have children/adopt
- If a family member/beneficiary passes away
- If there are significant changes in your financial situation
- If you relocate (estate plan needs to comply with state laws)
- If your relationship with a family member changes and you want to reallocate your assets to someone else
- If there are significant changes to your retirement accounts
- And more.
- Choosing The Wrong Executor Or Trustee/Failing To Name Either
When it comes to estate planning, choosing the right person to be your executor or trustee is an essential step. There are a few restrictions, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with them before deciding. Failing to name either of these people or naming the wrong people can have far-reaching consequences for your loved ones and estate. Executors and trustees play important roles in ensuring that your wishes for your estate are carried out in the event that you become incapacitated or pass away. We’ve discussed already that if you fail to name these people, the court will decide the fate of your estate, but if you choose the wrong executor or trustee, that can create another realm of issues in your case, including inefficiencies, delays, conflict amongst heirs, emotional distress, unintended distribution, and more!
- Failing To Communicate
Another mistake you might be making is failing to communicate your intentions to your family. It’s important that you keep those important to you in the loop, and ensure that they understand the designations that you create or plan to create with your estate. This can limit any conflict or tension from arising whenever the time for distribution comes. If you fail to communicate with them, this can lead to misunderstandings about your intentions. These kinds of misunderstandings might lead to your loved ones resenting you or other family members.
- Forgetting About Digital Assets
The digital age has had a profound impact on the way that we live our lives, but oftentimes digital assets are forgotten about in the estate planning process. If you have online investments, cryptocurrencies, tax records, and other digital assets, it’s important that you plan and prepare for them as well. Failing to do so can leave loved ones with uncertainty of not only the status of these assets, but your desires for them after you are gone.
- Overlooking Guardianship For Minor Children
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in the estate planning process is failing to name a guardian for your minor children. If you don’t complete this imperative step in estate planning, the future of your children – in addition to their well-being – will be left up in the air. In the end, a judge who is unfamiliar with your children will have the final say in determining a suitable guardian, a decision that may not necessarily align with your own carefully considered choice. By choosing who will become your children’s legal guardian ahead of time, you can have peace of mind knowing that you made a thoughtful decision for their future.
- Using DIY Estate Planning Tools
Many people who are overwhelmed by the estate planning process, are tempted to forego the help of an attorney and utilize one of the many free online estate planning templates. However, “do-it-yourself,” estate plannining is a terrible mistake to make. Not only are the majority of these documents not legally compliant because they are generic and lack proper legal language, they can also cause you to make costly mistakes. While they might be a more convenient option, they can jeopardize your assets in the long run. It’s crucial to work with an estate planning attorney who can help you understand your legal options and craft an estate plan that secures your assets and the future of your loved ones.
How Fouts Law Group Can Help You
If you need to begin the estate planning process, we can help you understand your options and avoid making the above mistakes. We will guide you through the steps of ensuring that your legacy is protected, and your family won’t be left wondering what your wishes were. Our estate planning attorney, Jeff Fouts has 30+ years of experience navigating clients through their estate planning journey, helping them name beneficiaries, trustees, guardians, and clarify what they want for all the things that matter most to them. Call today to schedule a free consultation and learn about your options.