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5 Things To Avoid When It Comes To Estate Planning

Apr 10, 2024 | Estate Planning

Creating an estate plan is an essential step in securing everything that matters most to you and protecting the ones you love. Estate planning is the process of figuring out what will happen to your property when you die, though there are aspects of an estate plan that can address certain matters while you’re alive as well. An estate plan can offer significant advantages that 67% of Americans miss out on because they do not get around to making one! If you’re one of the 33% that’s decided to take action, you are giving your family an advantage, but simply making an estate plan isn’t guaranteed to protect them; you need to make sure you do it the right way! Below are 5 things to avoid when it comes to estate planning so that you can save yourself time and spare your family possible complications.

1. Procrastinating

Procrastination is perhaps the number one thing you should avoid when it comes to estate planning. Forget all of the misconceptions you may have heard about the process, like that it’s only for the rich or the elderly. (It’s not.) Don’t tell yourself you’ll get it done tomorrow, or the next day. (You won’t.) Prioritize this life-affirming task now while you still can. Regardless of what the future will hold, an estate plan can protect your family members and the assets you wish to leave behind for them.

Failing to create an estate plan can lead to serious consequences, including:

  • Your family members being unsure of your wishes, creating even more stress during an already difficult time
  • Your assets ending up in the wrong hands as if you don’t plan for your assets, intestate succession laws will take over
  • Your family might have to go through probate, which is expensive and time-consuming
  • Legal battles between family members over who gets what
  • And more

Addressing these potential problems now through the process of creating an estate plan can ensure that your wishes are carried out the way you intended.

2. Outdated Documents

Having outdated estate planning documents is as bad as having no documents to begin with. It’s important to know that estate planning isn’t a “one-and-done” process. As you grow older, it’s likely that certain aspects of your life will change; when they do, so should your estate plan, so that it accurately depicts your current circumstances and desires. A few of these life events might include:

  • Marriage or divorce
  • A death in the family
  • The birth of children or grandchildren
  • A name change
  • A shift in financial status
  • Relocation (estate planning laws may vary state to state)
  • You started or closed a business
  • Your health has shifted and you need to change your end of life care
  • And more.

It’s important to make a habit of updating your estate plan every few years or whenever a significant change occurs. By staying proactive, regularly reviewing your estate plan, and making changes when necessary, you can avoid the risk of assets being wrongfully distributed, minor children ending up with an unintended guardian, and your wishes not being carried out as planned.

3. Neglecting To Establish Power Of Attorney And Medical Directives

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows someone to act on your behalf in the instance that you become incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself. Failure to appoint this person could lead to a family member having to go to court in order to have themselves appointed, which is a costly and time-consuming process that lacks privacy. By appointing someone you trust with Power of Attorney, you can ensure that your affairs are managed according to your preferences, and save your family from uncertainty and stress. 

Medical directives like a living will or health care proxy can specify your preferences for medical treatment if you’re unable to communicate. For example, if you were to require life support, you could outline in a living will how long you’d like to be left on life support.

What is the difference between the two? A healthcare proxy makes decisions relating only to your healthcare on your behalf if you are medically or legally incapacitated. A power of attorney can make legal and financial decisions on your behalf and acts based on the range of authority you’ve allowed them to have. If you fail to neglect these two critical aspects of estate planning, you risk leaving yourself vulnerable in times of incapacity.

4. Choosing The Wrong Executor

Selecting the appropriate executor is another pivotal aspect of estate planning, and you definitely want to avoid choosing the wrong person to fulfill such a vital role. An executor’s job is to carry out one’s last will and testament. It involves disbursing the estate’s assets, paying any taxes due, and covering outstanding debts, and beyond. It’s safe to say that this isn’t a small task, so it’s important to have honest conversations with the person you wish to name as your executor in order to ensure they’re committed to carrying out these tasks. This is another reason why you should update your estate plan, as life circumstances change, and this person may decide they cannot fulfill these duties, or you yourself might discover someone who is a better fit for the role.

5. Failing To Consult With An Estate Planning Attorney

Finally, you should avoid failing to consult with an estate planning attorney. If you’re considering creating an estate plan, you’ve likely come across a DIY estate planning site a time or two on your quest for information. While these platforms might have the appeal of convenience and cost efficiency, they’re usually lacking one very important detail: personalized legal guidance. DIY documents don’t understand your needs the way an estate planning attorney can, not to mention that they’re essentially created as a one-size-fits-all solution, which isn’t applicable to your unique situation. Working with an estate planning attorney can ensure that your legacy is protected from risks and that your estate plan is legally compliant according to Pennsylvania law.

How Daly Law Offices Can Help You

If you need to create an estate plan, or apply updates and make changes to your current one, Daly Law Offices can help. We have over 14 years of experience helping clients navigate the intricacies of estate planning. Allow our seasoned estate planning attorney to explain your options, answer your questions, and simplify the steps of creating a comprehensive estate plan. Call now to book a free consultation. 

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