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What are Common Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid?

Sonoma Estate Planning Lawyer

Errors in estate planning can be disastrous, and due to the nature of this area of law, mistakes often go undiscovered until it is too late to fix them. Working with an experienced estate planning lawyer can help you avoid these and other mistakes.

1) Not creating an estate plan

A surprising amount of people do not have an estate plan when they die or become incapacitated. No matter how young you are, how healthy you are, the size of your family, or how many assets you have, you need an estate plan if you don’t want to leave your family with a long list of difficult decisions and time-consuming tasks after you pass away.

2) Only planning for your death 

Of course, your estate plan should account for your assets after your death. However, it should also plan for your incapacitation. If you are in a serious accident or suffer major health problems, your estate plan should have clear instructions for your assets, legal decision-making powers, and health care preferences.

3) Naming the wrong personal representative or executor

Serving as a personal representative is a big responsibility. Too many people choose someone who cannot handle the paperwork and timeliness of this job, or worse, someone who has no issue pilfering the estate for their own gain.

4) Failing to review your estate plan

An estate plan is only useful when it is accurate and up-to-date. After you have created your initial estate plan, work closely with your attorney to review it on a regular basis. Most professionals recommend reviewing your plan every three to five years. Additionally, you should look over your estate plan if a beneficiary passes away, a child is born or adopted, or someone leaves the family through divorce or estrangement. Otherwise, your estate planning documents could have inconsistencies that make it difficult to administer your estate after you pass away.

5) Not considering probate while planning 

Individuals who use a will as their primary estate planning tool often fail to think about the effects of probate on their family. If you do not come up with a plan for your assets to avoid probate, your family could be left waiting months or years to gain access to them.

6) Using a DIY estate plan

One of the most egregious errors that estate planning professionals see is the use of DIY estate planning tools. On the outside, these tools may seem like the ideal solution. They let you draft your estate planning documents from home, cost very little, and plan for a wide range of situations.

In reality, though, they leave major problems for personal representatives and executors. They are often not specific to each state’s laws and requirements, so the documents may not be valid in your home state. The documents may also be outdated or not in compliance with current laws, rendering them invalid. Inconsistencies in drafting can also cause issues that require clarification and can lead to disputes.

7) Not consulting a professional

This is closely related to the previous error. In an effort to save money, some turn to those with minimal estate planning experience for assistance. Working with your lawyer cousin may not help your estate plan if your cousin practices in criminal defense and working with a financial professional who specializes in business funding may not yield the results you’re looking for. Your estate preserves your legacy and the future of those you love; entrust it to an experienced, qualified professional.

Contact Our Team of Estate Planning Attorneys Today

The team at Gullotta Law Group has handled all types of estate planning needs and goals, and we are ready to answer your questions. Schedule a consultation now by calling us at 707-938-7234 or reaching out to us online.

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