Simple Mistakes to Avoid in Estate Planning


Attorney Garrett T. Smith

1) Having no Estate Plan. Many people believe that they do not need to worry about creating an estate plan until they reach a certain age. Everyone is mortal and, unfortunately, no one has a crystal ball to know exactly when their life might end. If you fail to designate how you want your estate to be distributed, the state statute holds precedence. Although this process can bring up uncomfortable conversations, the discomfort is outweighed by the peace of mind you gain by having a clearly designed estate plan.

2) Not Updating Your Estate Plan. This common mistake can have drastic consequences including additional taxes and family contention because of confusion. Here are a few examples of circumstances that may require an estate plan update:

· Acquisition of land (real property)

· Death of a beneficiary

· Divorce

· Marriage

· Moving to a different state

· Changes in law

3) A Lack of Understanding. When I review existing estate plans for potential clients, I am surprised by how often the client’s understanding of trust distribution differs from the actual language of the trust. This most often occurs where a boilerplate form was used and there were no customizations made to match the wishes of the client. At Inter Vivos, we take the time to explain each document and how distributions will be made to ensure that the client understands and is comfortable with the plan.

4) Your Estate Plan is a Secret. Every family is different and must decide how to approach this conversation. For example, my parents never discussed who would be guardians of my siblings and me if they died, but one of my cousin’s parents would tell him who his guardians would be each time they updated their estate plan. I advise my clients to be as communicative as possible with their families so that their wishes can beunderstood and clearly articulated. There are cases where it is more appropriate to be discreet with family members who might be difficult to deal with. At the end of the day, it is ultimately up to you to decide how to handle this issue because no one knows how your family will react to this type of news better than you do.

5)Accidentally Losing Control of Your Estate. Creation of certain documents can potentially give more financial, legal, and medical control to another person than intended. These documents should be discussed thoroughly and drafted in such a way that you do not inadvertently give up more control than you need or want to.

I am passionate about helping families be as successful as possible when it comes to estate planning. If you have questions about the estate planning

process or would like to ensure that your final wishes are met, please give me a call!


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