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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Common Estate Planning Mistakes

Planning for the care of your property or family members after your death is often a complex process.  The following list of common estate planning mistakes will help to ensure that you are making smart decisions to protect your loved ones and legacy.

Planning your estate by yourself. An estate planning attorney has the knowledge and experience essential to develop a sound estate plan. Your attorney can also serve as a crucial resource in minimizing tax implications and ensuring your estate plan will meet your objectives. Individuals frequently try to plan by themselves and all too often fail to consider important issues or complete necessary paperwork to ensure their wishes are able to be honored.

Delaying estate planning due to finances. While estate planning does bear some upfront costs, it is an important step in outlaying your family’s future and well-being. In addition, proper estate planning often results in larger cash savings over the long run.

Assuming your loved ones know your wishes. Family members must handle your estate in a time of grief and stress. Inadequate planning can lead to a rift between even the most agreeable siblings and may ultimately mean that your estate is not executed as you wished. At an emotionally vulnerable time, make sure that your family will not have further stress and grief over money, funeral arrangements, and sentimental items.  

Believing your estate plan does not need to be changed. Life and relationships are constantly changing. Hence, estate plans need frequent revisions, especially in response to changes such as marriage, divorce, birth, death, and property sales or acquisitions.

Not notifying family about your estate plan. Your executor, successor trustee, and beneficiaries need to be aware of your estate plan and have access to the documents.

Naming only one trustee, agent, or executor. Don’t forget to name alternate agents, executors or successor trustees. You may name a family member to fill one of these roles, and forget to revise the document if that person dies or becomes incapacitated. By adding alternates, you ensure there is no question regarding who has the authority to act on your or the estate’s behalf.

Leaving the burden to your spouse. Relying on your spouse to solely handle your estate may have devastating consequences on your family. For instance, if your partner is incapacitated simultaneously, there will be no one to execute your plan. Therefore, it is vital you appoint alternative representatives.

Using the same individual as your healthcare and financial powers of attorney. Identifying one person to be in charge of both your finances and healthcare gives that individual a very large influence over your future. As a consequence, it’s usually recommended that you   split decision-making authority between multiple parties.

Making changes without your attorney. Changing details of your estate plan without professional assistance can easily cause unintended legal or tax implication and affect other provisions. The best way to avoid these mistakes is to hire an experienced Texas estate planning attorney.

Author Jim Cramp is the founder and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm.  The Cramp Law Firm provides a spectrum of family-related legal services in the greater San Antonio Region. 


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