Couple discussing their estate plan with attorney

Common Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

By David Hammond

Estate planning puts important legal tools in place that can provide serious protections for you and your family. While estate planning can provide critical benefits for you and the ones you loved, estate planning the right way is very important. There are several mistakes people make in estate planning that can be avoided, especially if you are aware of these potential missteps in the first place. Let us take a look at some of the more common estate planning mistakes you should take care to avoid.

Avoid These Common Estate Planning Mistakes

One of the biggest and most common estate planning mistakes is not to have an estate plan at all. Far too many people do not even have the most basic estate planning documents in place, such as a will. Without a will, you pass away intestate and your estate will be disbursed according to state intestacy laws, which may not be according to the way you would have wanted things to be distributed. You also miss out on the opportunity to name a guardian for any of your minor children and you do not get to choose who will serve as personal representative of your estate.

While it is difficult, if not impossible, to plan for every possible hurdle life may throw in your way, the best estate plans tackle the unexpected things in life as best as possible. For instance, does your estate plan consider what would happen should you ever become incapacitated? This means that your estate plan should include a durable financial power of attorney that will grant a trusted individual to manage your financial affairs. The durability feature means that the power survives any incapacitation on the part of the principal, you. Additionally, you should have a health care surrogate in place naming a trusted individual that will make health care decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated and unable to communicate these wishes for yourself. A living will should be considered as well because it outlines your end of life care wishes in terminal care situations.

Your plan should also have backups, or contingency plans. This means selecting alternates for important roles of responsibility such as powers of attorney, trustees, health care surrogates, and personal representatives. There may come a time when the person initially named is unwilling or unable to serve. This is why you should always name an alternate. Also, be sure that you talk to those named to take on roles of responsibilities. Far too many people fail to do this and the person they name ends up not wanting to take on the responsibility.

Failing to update an estate plan is also a far too common mistake that is made. In order for an estate plan to most accurately reflect your wishes, it should be consistently updated, especially in light of major life events such as births, death, marriages, and divorces in the family. Such big life moments can have a substantial impact on things such as beneficiary designations and who you wish to name in roles of responsibilities, such as those previously discussed. Failure to keep your estate plan updated can easily result in an estate plan that does not reflect truly what you want for yourself, your assets, and your loved ones.

Estate Planning Attorneys

To avoid common estate planning mistakes and secure an estate plan that will best protect your wishes for yourself and your loved ones, talk to the knowledgeable estate planning attorneys at CDH Law. Contact us today.

About the Author
David is a former military prosecutor and defense lawyer with over a decade of experience fighting for service members and their families. He served nine years and two combat tours as an active duty US Army officer, then joined the Reserves and settled down in Syracuse to be near family. Now representing people across Central New York charged with serious felonies, misdemeanors, DWIs, and traffic offenses, he puts the same level of commitment into his civilian law practice. If you have any questions regarding this article, you can contact David here.