Common Estate Planning Mistakes

September 13, 2019

No one wants to think too much about their own mortality, but estate planning can be a comfort to you and a godsend to those you leave behind. Going through the process of considering your assets and deciding how you would prefer them to be distributed after your death can provide a great sense of satisfaction knowing that your affairs are in order and your family will not have to deal with needless uncertainties at an already stress-filled and emotional time. If the point of estate planning is to avoid ambiguity and misinterpretations, it is important not to fall prey to any of the following common mistakes.

Not Having a Plan

Considering your options and conceptualizing a plan is not enough if you do not take the crucial step of putting it in writing to be consulted in the event of your death. If you do not have a written estate plan, your assets will be distributed according to the laws in your state. Even if your beneficiaries are the same as those determined by the laws, your family may miss out on certain tax benefits you could have utilized.

Not Checking Back

Review your estate plan periodically, especially after life-changing events, such as the birth of a child or the loss of a loved one, to be sure that it still fits your situation. If your trustee or another person who has been appointed a role in your plan dies or becomes unable to fulfill those obligations, that should be updated as well.

Choosing an Unsuitable Trustee

In theoretical matters of life and death, people tend to make overly emotional decisions. You love your brother, so he deserves the honor of your trust. He may be offended if you do not pick him, so he becomes your trustee. Maybe your oldest child deserves to be your trustee, but she is unknowledgeable, untrustworthy, or she would be easily swayed when faced with tough decisions. If no one in your life can handle the job, do not discount the option of appointing a professional trustee.

Not Considering Contingencies

Your job is not complete once you determine to whom your assets should go. What if your spouse predeceases you, or what if you left an inheritance to your child and they pass first? What if you die while your child is still a minor? Should they get their inheritance all at once right away or when they are of age? Would it be more appropriate if they received designated distributions over time, at certain ages, or upon completing specific life-milestones? These questions should be considered when handling estate planning matters.

Preparing Your Own Estate Plan

Attempting to complete your estate plan on your own can have unintended consequences. Since laws change periodically and vary by state, a professional estate planner can walk you through the process and ensure that everything is in order.

West Chester Wills and Estates Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Assist with All Aspects of Estate Planning

Making the proper arrangements for your estate can be an overwhelming undertaking. If you are planning your estate, the West Chester wills and estates lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. can help. Contact us online or call us at 610-565-3701 to set up a free consultation. With offices in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we assist clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.