The Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes

The Wall Street Journal pulled together a panel last month in order to tackle the biggest estate planning mistakes hampering everyday Americans.

Indeed, one of the biggest mistakes is the belief among those everyday Americans that estate planning isn’t for them. It’s a message that our colleagues and we echo again and again: virtually everyone needs an estate plan.

Of course, even for those who have a plan in place, the wrong approach can prove costly in the long run. Below, we highlight a few of the Journal’s most astute observations.

Not Enough Documents

You know what they say: where there is only a will, there should be way more. At an absolute minimum, a basic estate plan should include the following documents, duly executed and professionally reviewed by an attorney:

  • Last Will and Testament
  • Durable Power of Attorney (for legal/financial concerns)
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney
  • Advance Healthcare Directive

The “One and Done” Myth

It’s one thing to convince someone they need an estate plan. It’s quite another to persuade them to update one they’ve already made. Too often, people want to wash their hands of estate planning, even if many years have passed since they last looked at their affairs.

Things change, though. Babies are born. People die. Laws are amended. Taxes change. Technology evolves. Families move. Assets grow. Each of these is a good reason to periodically dust off those documents and update them.

Not Trusting a Trust

Trusts aren’t the same as wills, nor are they “just for rich people,” as the myth goes. Trusts are perfectly worthwhile instruments for an estate of any size. They can give you greater control over the distribution of your assets and your provisions for loved ones. Notably, trusts also allow you to dispose of your estate outside of probate, sparing your family both anxiety and expense.

Doing Everything Yourself

There’s no getting around it: estate law is complicated. Individuals who attempt to handle everything entirely on their own often end up making technical or unforeseen mistakes that cost their families in the future. Working with an estate planning professional provides confidence and peace of mind.

If you’d like help with creating, updating, or reviewing an estate plan for your family, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.


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