Estate planning is a tricky business. With its complexity comes a lot of misconceptions – some of which can be extremely dangerous to your assets, your future and your loved ones! Don’t fall in the trap of making these five estate planning mistakes.
1.) “I have no assets, so I don’t need an estate plan.”
The #1 Estate planning mistake people often make is thinking they don’t need a plan at all. The fact is, even if you feel you have little to no valuable assets, having no plan for your death or old age can put an enormous burden on your loved ones. Failing to plan ahead can leave you in a bad place if you become incapacitated.
Documents such as a durable power of attorney and an advanced health care directive can give your loved ones the ability to make legal and medical decisions on your behalf, such as handling your finances or taking you off life support if you become terminally ill.
2.) “I’m too young to be worrying about this stuff.”
Despite popular belief, estate planning should begin the moment you turn 18. Many make the mistake of assuming they don’t need to bother with planning for the future until they are “old,” but the fact is, no one knows when it’s their time to go. Dying without an estate plan can also become costly for loved ones, so even if your only assets are your bank accounts, a car and a few electronics, it’s always best to be prepared. At the very least, you should have a durable power of attorney and an advanced health care directive, so that you can give someone close to you the ability to make medical or legal decisions on your behalf if you suffer an accident or fall ill.
3.) “I already got everything in order years ago.”
If you’ve established your estate plan long ago, you may feel like you can relax and not worry about it. Unfortunately, an estate plan isn’t something you can just create and then forget about years later. Documents like wills, titling assets, jointly-owned property and beneficiary designations must be updated every few years.
4.) “If I have a will, that’s all I really need.”
Many people make the mistake of believing that all of their assets will be distributed according to the will. This is not necessarily the case. Wills only deal with assets that go through probate, however, many assets such as jointly held property, transfer on death accounts, payable on death accounts, and property with beneficiary designations such as life insurance and retirement benefits skip probate altogether, and override the will. A will also cannot stand in for documents such as powers of attorney and health care directives, which can cover you in a situation where you become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself.
5.) “I don’t need to waste my money on an estate planning professional.”
You may want to take the DIY approach to estate planning to save yourself money. After all, with so many sources of information online, how difficult can it be? But the fact is that in estate planning, every situation is so unique that anyone can benefit from enlisting the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. Not only can a professional help you avoid excessive taxes on your property, but they can also ensure that your needs will be met in a variety of situations you may not consider on your own.
At the Law Office of Christina Lesher, our friendly, knowledgeable staff is ready to help you create a customized estate plan to suit your needs. Call (713)529-5900 to schedule an appointment today.