Top 4 Mistakes to Avoid When Estate Planning
The idea of estate planning can make people uncomfortable. Nobody wants to think about what will happen when they pass away, yet estate planning is a necessary step to take when preparing for that time. We know that you want what is best for your loved ones, and you want to make sure they are all well taken care of upon your passing.
At the end of the day, estate planning is nothing to be afraid of. Of course, our attorneys here at Kira Doyle Law are available to guide you throughout this entire process. However, here are some common mistakes to avoid when preparing your estate plan.
1. Not having an estate plan.
No matter what stage of life you are in, or what your monetary wealth is, an estate plan is always a good idea. One of our experienced attorneys will look at your personal situation and help you formulate a plan that works great for you and your family. Remember that a Last Will and Testament is designed to name who will have control over your property in the event of your death and even who is named as guardian of your children.
When completing your estate plan, you will name a health care surrogate, someone who you have appointed to make decisions for you should you become incapacitated. In addition, you will complete a Living Will, a document that is used to state your wishes regarding the use of life-sustaining measures if you become terminally ill.
These two documents work in conjunction to provide a full set of directions to your physician, so you are able to communicate your health care wishes.
Even with the best of intentions, many individuals put off creating an estate plan because they feel they are in the best health of their lives. While this may be true, life is unpredictable — accidents, injuries and the unexpected happen. It is important to be prepared as much as possible.
2. Not keeping your will or trust updated.
Life circumstances are always changing. Your assets may change. You may acquire or sell real property. Most important, your relationships may change. Relationship dynamics are always shifting and, while it may be hard to come to terms with, there is always the chance that the individual you once trusted enough to name as personal representative of your estate is no longer someone you would want to take that role.
Remember, too, that families change. Marriage, divorce, adoption, births and deaths are all a part of life. When loved ones are added to your family, you will want to make sure they are included in your estate planning documents.
You also may experience job changes that will, in turn, change your retirement portfolio. You may open IRAs and other financial accounts that list beneficiaries that you should ensure remain accurate.
To us, estate planning goes beyond the items one should include in their will; it also includes making sure that all of your non-probate assets are titled in a way that allow those assets to seamlessly transfer to a living beneficiary. If you fail to keep your estate planning documents updated, you run the risk of your assets not being distributed in the way that you intended.
3. Failing to fund your trust.
If you go through the process of creating an estate plan that includes a trust, you will then want to make sure you have properly funded that trust. In a nutshell, a revocable living trust is created while you are alive, and you can transfer certain types of property and assets into the ownership of the trust.
This is important to know because any property that is owned by the trust will not have to go through probate, which can help to reduce administrative costs, creditor claims and the stress that could come with a probate proceeding. Trusts also help to keep the nature of your assets confidential, as trusts are not recorded in the Public Record, unlike a Last Will and Testament. A trust also makes it possible to place restrictions or conditions on distributions to your named beneficiaries.
While you are alive, you are the trustee of your own trust and, as such, you will manage all of your assets and property. A part of your estate planning process is to name an individual or corporation to serve as trustee after you pass away; this individual or corporation will then administer your trust in accordance with your wishes and Florida law.
4. Keeping your estate plan private.
The purpose of your estate plan is to make sure your loved ones receive the assets you intended for them to have and are taken care of the way you would like them to be, upon your passing. Therefore, it is important to involve your family in your estate planning process, if only to share what they can expect and where additional copies of your documents are located.
Also, remember to be as specific as possible when speaking about your assets in your documents, consider all tax impacts, and work with a knowledgeable attorney who can provide guidance for situations you may not be familiar with.
Speak to a St. Petersburg Estate Planning Attorney
The experienced attorneys at Kira Doyle Law can walk you through the estate planning process and help you complete documents that will ensure your wishes are carried out in the event of your incapacity or death. Contact our St. Petersburg office at 727-537-6818 or complete the form below today to make an appointment!