When it comes to estate planning, we talk quite a bit about what you should do. DO make sure that your estate plan is up to date for example, and DO discuss the different options with your estate planning attorney to be sure you have the right documents in place. Now, it’s time to talk about a few “donts” – mistakes you want to make sure to avoid at all costs. We’ve listed the top three here but as always, discussing your unique concerns with an estate planning attorney is always your best bet.
1.) Don’t overlook incapacity planning.
Estate planning isn’t just about taking care of your loved ones after you’re gone… it’s also about protecting you and yours in the event you’re no longer able to speak on your own behalf. Becoming incapacitated due to illness or injury is unfortunately more common than you might think and could quickly turn into a nightmare for your family without the proper planning.
Incapacity planning ensures that your wishes are enforced, even if you’re not able to express those wishes yourself. It documents what kind of medical care you want (or don’t want) to receive for example, and lays out how financial matters should be handled as well as who has the authority to make those decisions.
In short, it is the piece of your estate plan that takes care of you when you’re not physically or mentally able to take care of yourself.
2.) Don’t make uninformed assumptions.
Just about everyone knows what a Will is… but what about a Special Needs Trust? A Healthcare Directive? The fact is, there are a number of tools and devices that you can use in your estate plan… deciding which of these tools is best for you will depend upon your unique circumstances.
So, don’t just assume that you’re covered – discuss your goals with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure your estate plan addresses all your concerns.
3.) Don’t rely on do-it-yourself estate planning downloads and worksheets.
It is technically possible to create legally-binding documents – including wills and trusts – with pre-made forms offered online for a fee. But just because they’re legally-binding doesn’t mean they’re a good idea.
Despite their popularity, do-it-yourself legal forms are not the end-all, beat-all that they claim to be. In fact, Consumer Reports Magazine put DIY estate planning websites under the microscope in 2012 and quickly advised readers to steer clear.
Just remember, your estate is unique as you are… why would you protect it with a one-size-fits-all estate plan?
Author, President and Founding Attorney
Parman & Easterday