Estate planning tackles a number of complicated and difficult issues— it can encompass everything from asset protection to providing for those with special needs, to reducing estate taxes, to disinheriting a child, and even more.
Without a doubt, planning for your future death requires a thorough understanding of the estate and probate laws as well as strategic and careful planning. Which is why it makes sense to enlist the help of an experienced estate and probate lawyer where you live.
Yet, as in all things, mistakes can occur.
While it can be argued that the biggest mistake you can make is to have no estate plan at all, there are other mistakes that most people make which can be almost as bad.
Here are 3 common estate planning mistakes you don’t want to make.
- Not Hiring an Experienced Lawyer and Doing it Yourself Instead
For most people over the age of 18, or who own anything at all, the do-it-yourself approach to estate planning is as bad as and can have the same effect as not having any estate plan at all.
Because unless you have a very simple estate, chances are high that you will make some serious mistakes when doing your own estate plan.
And frankly, once you are dead, there’s no going back. You can’t fix it. You’re no longer around to tell the court what you meant to do or say.
Which makes it nearly impossible to correct your mistakes —while it is guaranteed to be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to even try.
The result is that you effectively leave your estate in a “hot mess” and your loved ones may end up with little more than frustration, headaches, and conflict.
Sound too dramatic?
Well, it’s not.
Here are just a few things that can happen when you try to do your own estate planning:
- You may miss legal deadlines.
- You may miss opportunities or legal strategies that could benefit your estate and loved ones.
- You may completely invalidate your Last Will and Testament.
- You may cause your entire estate to have to go through probate.
- You may create a Will conflict situation among your relatives.
- You may invalidate government disability payments for a loved one.
And on and on.
Trying to do your own estate plan is a recipe for disaster. So don’t do it.
Consult with an experienced estate and probate lawyer.
- Not Putting a Residuary Clause in Your Will
Another mistake people frequently make when doing their own Last Will and Testament (“Will”) is forgetting to put in a residuary clause.
What’s that, you ask?
If you don’t know, then it is additional proof that you should not be doing your own estate planning.
A residuary clause is a clause in your Will that leaves “all the rest and residue” of your estate to someone or to a trust. It is what is left after all administrative costs and taxes have been paid and all specific bequests have been distributed.
It’s all the rest—which can be the bulk of—your assets.
In Florida, if you fail to include a residuary clause in your Will, (or if an asset is contested) the residue is distributed under Florida’s intestacy rules.
- Making Beneficiary Designation Errors
A third common mistake is making beneficiary designation errors.
There are several facets to this type of estate planning mistake.
One is failing to name alternate beneficiaries in your Will and in other necessary estate planning documents.
Another is naming your minor children as beneficiaries of your life insurance policies. This mistake is costly and will not get you the desired outcome of having the insurance proceeds go directly to your children. Instead, a court-appointed guardian will be required, and he or she will control the money.
A third beneficiary designation mistake is thinking that your Will controls assets such as monies in retirement accounts or annuities. It does not. These assets do not go through probate but pass directly to the named beneficiary.
Estate planning is a complex and complicated area of law. Estate planning mistakes can be expensive if not downright impossible to fix. So, do the smart thing and consult with an experienced estate and probate lawyer to assist you in preparing your estate plan.
Protecting Your Family is Just a Phone Call Away.
Don’t leave planning for your future and that of your loved ones to chance. All it takes is one phone call to the Law Offices of Samantha J. Fitzgerald to ensure that your wishes will be followed, and your loved ones taken care of when you are gone. We expertly guide individuals through the complex probate process, and capably handle all aspects of the creation, administration, and settlement of trusts as well. When you work with the estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Samantha J. Fitzgerald, you get more than just an estate plan: you get peace of mind. Call us at 954-580-3690 or email us at: [email protected]