Just about anyone can benefit from estate planning, but not everyone understands how complicated that process can be. Even people with relatively small estates can have some unforeseen complications, which can negatively impact you or your loved ones if you miss something important. Here are five common mistakes people make when planning their estates:
- Writing only a will
- For many people, “estate planning” is synonymous with writing a will, and they do not think much beyond that first step. What they do not realize is that an estate plan can be much more comprehensive, and writing a will is only the most basic part. People who stop at writing a will may be ignoring many useful tools that can protect them and their loved ones, both before and after they pass away.
- Failing to put advance directives into place
- “Advance directives” is the broad term for a collection of legal arrangements commonly used to protect people while they are still alive. These include a power of attorney, which gives someone else the right to make legal or financial decisions on your behalf, as well as a health care proxy, which gives someone the authority to make medical decisions for you. These documents can be essential to avoiding a lot of legal difficulties if you become unable to handle your own personal affairs while you are still alive, for whatever reason.
- Not accounting for the needs of dependents
- Estate planning is not just about protecting your own interests. If you have any minor children, or others who depend upon you, you can put protections in place to help them if you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to act as their caretaker. This can ensure they will be legally and financially secure if the worst should happen to you and you are no longer around to take care of them.
- Not keeping the estate plan up to date
- Even when people have a complete estate plan in place, they often forget to keep that plan updated over the years. This can be a problem if, for example, your estate plan references property you no longer have, or grants inheritances to people you no longer associate with. Updating your estate plan periodically can be essential to avoiding these kinds of problems, should you suddenly pass away.
- Not having contingencies if things go wrong
- The fact of the matter is that any number of things can go wrong, no matter how thorough or up-to-date your estate plan is. That is why a good estate plan will have contingencies in place for any kind of unfortunate problems that might arise along the way. To understand what these problems might be, though, you should speak to a lawyer with knowledge of estate law, who can advise you on what steps you should take.
The estate law attorneys at David J. Lorber & Associates, PLLC will thoroughly analyze your estate and work with you to determine the best means of transferring your assets, minimizing taxes, and ensuring your needs are met. For comprehensive estate planning services in New York, call David J. Lorber & Associates, PLLC at (631) 750-0900 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation at our Setauket office.