Estate planning and end of life planning are about taking control of how your medical needs are met when you are unable to communicate your wishes and assuring an orderly distribution of your assets post-death. When we are “young” [at 54 I consider myself young-ish so I use that word with a broad brush] — death and long-term care later in life might be hard to see as relevant, may seem scary or morbid but we shouldn’t put off planning out of fear of the unknown or because it’s unpleasant. Often folks come to me after a health scare that shakes them up but I strongly encourage folks to NOT wait for life to happen to you –take charge and take care of things now.
Here are five common estate planning mistakes people make and suggestions for how to take action:
Not having a plan in place
If you don’t have a Basic Estate Plan in place, medical defaults, state guardianship, and intestate succession laws and the probate process will determine how you are cared for and where your assets go. You do not want your estate and end of life care managed by state laws and the court system –be proactive and meet with an experienced Estate Planning attorney to set up an end of life and estate plan.
Not Updating Your Plans
Having a plan from 1983 isn’t enough. Estate plans need to be updated after significant life events, when your goals shift or when public policy changes. Make sure you review your Estate Plan regularly and make changes when necessary, with the help of an experienced Estate Planning Attorney –I meet with my clients every few years free of charge just to touch base. Find “your attorney” and do the same –even if it costs a few bucks it’s money well spent.
Improper ownership of assets
End of life planning can expose oversights surrounding asset ownership. The first mistake people make is not owning property jointly with rights of survivorship as spouses. On specific occasions, spouses may want to keep property separate but this should be calculated not accidental. When they own property together, it creates creditor protections and efficiencies in transferring property upon the first spouse’s death. Taking asset ownership too lightly or improperly executing it can cause problems when it pertains to estate and end of life planning. Make a listing of your assets and meet with an attorney to understand how they fit into your Estate Plan.
Not planning for minor children/beneficiaries
One of the most important goals of estate planning is to make sure your children are cared for in the case of you and/or your spouse’s untimely death. You also need to have a proper Will in place that designates a guardian (make sure you ask the relative or friend before listing them as the designated guardian —I strongly advise against “surprise” guardians). That said, this subject deserves its own blog so look for one in the future but in the meanwhile please know this is probably the #1 overlooked Estate Planning area and that may be because when our children are young so are we —don’t be a statistic and visit with an attorney so that you have your family covered.
Heidi S. Webb, Attorney at Law serves clients in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Port Orange, Melbourne and beyond with matters of Elder Law, Estate Planning, and Probate Law. Contact her today to schedule a free consultation. Visit her page on Facebook, or see what her clients are saying to learn more about Heidi.