One of the best things an estate planning attorney can provide to our clients is peace of mind. It could be for the grandparents who finally have a will and trust in place or the concerned parents who now know exactly who will care for their special needs child after they are gone. Peace of mind in our world could also extend to a business venture, healthcare needs, protecting beneficiaries from creditors and lawsuits, preserving your legacy, and having someone who can help avoid common estate planning mistakes.

Clearly, you can stretch peace of mind a very long way with a carefully crafted estate planning strategy — especially since none of us knows what life has in store for us and our loved ones. And yet, life happens, and so many people delay getting the process started or do not recognize that many of their bases still are not covered. 

As a result, mistakes are made, and unfortunate things happen. That is why we feel a sense of urgency about helping you protect your family and making you aware of the common pitfalls we see people make every day.

Here are 8 of the most common estate planning mistakes to avoid at all costs.

1. Procrastination — You had to know we would start with this common estate planning mistake. The reality is that none of us can predict the day we will pass away, so putting off creating an estate plan altogether or neglecting to revise your estate plan when life circumstances bring change is a recipe for disaster for you and your family.

2. Thinking you do not need a will or trust — It is one thing to procrastinate on something you know is important. It is something else entirely to think you do not need it. We find most of this mindset stems from the fact that many people are unaware of the consequences of not having an estate plan. Everyone has an estate, regardless of whether you own one home and have $1,000 in the bank or you have a mansion on the hill, six cars, and a vacation home. And if you pass away without a will or trust, the law will determine what happens to your stuff and the people you care about. Who wants that?

3. Creating a will online — Several websites offer to create legal documents, including wills and trusts. And they do it far cheaper than hiring an attorney. But saving money now with one of these services could cost you and your family far more money down the road than it would have cost to hire an estate planning attorney. We wrote an interesting blog about why online wills are one of the biggest estate planning mistakes you can make. 

4. Not choosing a guardian — Many people start the estate planning process but put off naming a guardian, either because they cannot decide on someone or they assume their kids will be adults before they pass on. 

5. Wrong beneficiaries — This happens a lot. Someone gets a divorce, remarries, or has more children and forgets to update the recipient list for their IRAs, 401(k)s, and life insurance policies. Ex-spouses benefit more often than not from these and other estate planning mistakes since a beneficiary form overrides a will. Who wants their estate to go to their ex?

6. Only having a will — Wills are a great place to start your estate planning strategy. But like most things, there is a limit to their intended purpose. Estate planning involves a slew of legal documents aimed at covering every base, including but not limited to trusts, powers of attorney, burial directives, advanced healthcare directives, and special needs trusts.

7. No Power of Attorney designations — Who do you want to make your healthcare or financial decisions for you if you cannot? A stranger? Probably not. Therefore, executing a durable POA allows you to appoint who you want to carry out your wishes. 

8. Not enough life insurance — If you are the income provider for your family, you need to have enough life insurance to see them comfortably through a difficult financial and emotional time.

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Leigh Hilton P.L.L.C