Biggest Mistakes in Estate Planning: Part III

An important part of your estate plan is making sure that it provides for your heirs in the way you want it to. While you may take pains to make sure your estate plan is comprehensive and covers all your bases, it is important to factor your heirs and their possible actions into the equation. The final part of our series on some of the most common biggest mistakes individuals tend to make in estate planning will explore these more subjective aspects of the estate planning process, which an experienced estate planning attorney can help you navigate.

Lack of Flexibility

Comprehensive estate planning can be a long and detailed process. You may feel like you have everything worked out perfectly by the end of it. However, it is important to keep in mind that you cannot plan for every event. For instance, even if you establish a trust for your only child and transfer assets to the trust successfully, you may not have included mechanisms that protect your child from creditors or even a potential future divorce. That means the assets within that trust could be susceptible to claims by other individuals, and if you establish a trust in your child’s name when the child is five then you may not be planning far enough ahead.

You also need to consider that any number of circumstances could change your beneficiaries. It is important to build in a back-up plan into all aspects of your estate plan that can help plan for the unexpected. For instance, if you name a guardian for your children and that guardian is happy to accept the responsibility that comes along with that, you may believe that you have adequately provided for your children’s well-being in case you are no longer able to. However, what happens if you are injured or killed in a car accident along with that named guardian? Including secondary nominees for these types of situations is crucial to ensuring that your family is adequately provided for in the least disruptive manner. Doing so can also help avoid unnecessary involvement by the courts.

Not Communicating with Heirs

You may feel you know your family better than anyone else, and you are likely correct. However, if you fail to discuss your estate plan with your heirs then they may be left with lingering questions about your decisions when you are no longer around to be able to answer them. This can lead to your heirs contesting your Will or other parts of your estate plan, including documents related to your healthcare and powers of attorney. These types of legal processes can be extremely difficult for families to endure and can cause a lasting strain in familial relationships. By speaking with your beneficiaries ahead of time and ensuring that they understand your wishes as well as the reasoning behind them, you can help maintain peace surrounding your estate.

Including mechanisms like a “no contest clause” – a clause that typically states heirs that contest a Will unsuccessfully will not receive any assets regardless of whether they have been directed to or not – can also help ensure that family members accept your wishes when it comes to your estate. Communicating with potential heirs can also help make sure that everyone you wish to provide for has been provided for, especially in situations where you may be counting on someone else to make such provisions for an individual you care for.

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