Families sometimes seek legal assistance because they are looking for damage control after a loved one has passed away. Estate planning mistakes were made, and the surviving family members are forced to deal with difficult circumstances.
These situations are frustrating because they could have been avoided if the decedent had received the right guidance. With this in mind, we will look at some of the mistakes that can damage your legacy in this post.
DIY Estate Planning
There have been many sitcom episodes based on a character rolling up his sleeves to try to get something done on his own. His spouse always warns him that he is probably going to make matters worse, but he ignores the advice.
The endings are always quite predictable. Even though everyone has seen these stories unfold, people still fall into the same old traps, and it applies to estate planning.
You can buy boilerplate legal documents on the Internet, including simple wills. The commercials and advertisements make it sound like it is easy for anyone to plan their own estate. As if all you have to do is fill in the blanks and you are good to go.
When you plan your estate, you are facilitating very significant monetary asset transfers, and there are legal parameters that must be followed. It is very risky to fill in the blanks on a generic worksheet and hope for the best.
Consumer Reports put this subject under the microscope a number of years ago, and they advised their readers to steer clear of DIY estate planning. There is no reason to take chances when qualified assistance is always a phone call away.
Assuming You Don’t Need a Trust
Contrary to popular belief, trusts can be very useful for people who are not extraordinarily wealthy. The revocable living trust is a very effective tool that can be a better choice than a simple will for a number of different reasons.
- First and foremost, if you use a living trust instead of a simple will, the asset transfers would not be subject to probate.
- Probate is an expensive, time-consuming, and public legal process.
- You can also provide asset protection when you have a living trust.
- It is possible to allow for limited distributions to the beneficiaries over time, and their creditors would not be able to touch the principal.
The revocable living trust is one option, but there are other reasons why you may want to use a different type of trust. You should explore all of your options before you make any decisions that yield negative consequences.
Failure to Address Incapacity
Estate planning and elder law attorneys bring up subjects that people usually try to avoid, because ignoring something that is unpleasant does not make it go away. With this in mind, you should prepare for the eventualities that you may face toward the end of your life.
The Alzheimer’s Association tells us that 32 percent of people who are 85 years of age and older have contracted the disease, and this is not the only cause of cognitive impairment.
If you do not take the right legal steps in advance, the state would appoint a guardian to act on your behalf in the event of your incapacity. You can prevent the expensive guardianship process and choose your own hand-picked representatives if you execute documents called durable powers of attorney.
You can create a durable power of attorney for financial decision-making and a power of attorney for health care matters. Additionally, you should sign a living will (AKA advance directive) to record your life-support and organ and tissue donation choices.
Another benefit that living trusts provide is the ability to prepare for incapacity. You would act as the trustee while you are alive and well, and you can name a disability trustee to assume the role if it ever becomes necessary.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
When you work with our firm to create your estate plan, you can avoid the mistakes that can damage your legacy. If you are ready to make the connection, we can be reached by phone at 913-262-2000, and you can use our contact form if you would like to send us a message.