Ensuring that your estate is in order and that the transfer of assets goes according to your wishes is extremely important. As such, we strongly recommend that everyone take the time to establish an estate plan. However, because of the complexity of these arrangements and the state laws which must be understood and taken into consideration, oftentimes mistakes are made that can bring unexpected obstacles and frustrations for the family after the passing of a loved one.
Below we've listed and briefly explained five common mistakes people make when attempting to organize an estate plan without the help of an experienced Wills, Trusts, and Estate attorney.
1. Not Planning For The Unexpected
Establishing an estate plan that does not take into account the possibility of unexpected life events may leave many contingencies unaccounted for. For instance, if you were to become incapacitated in an accident, it could leave your loved ones unable to sufficiently care for you without an expensive guardianship proceeding. Establishing a durable power of attorney or revocable trust can provide incapacity protections. Additionally, an advanced medical directive and a medical power of attorney will let your family know your wishes and identify an agent to make healthcare decisions for you.
2. Not Establishing a Contingency Plan
If there is only one person named to execute the transfer of the estate and that person is unwilling or unable to do so, then guardianship proceedings will have to be initiated. This could potentially lead to an estranged individual being left in charge. Every plan should include an alternative individual to whom the duties will be shifted if the primary individual cannot execute these duties.
3. Failure to Modify
When substantial life changes take place, the estate plan needs to be updated. Moving to a new state, having children, marriage & remarriage, separation or divorce, children turning 18, or the birth/death/marriage of a beneficiary can introduce new contingencies or trigger procedural transfers established by state law that could go against your wishes. Each of these life events comes with their own specific circumstances that need to be addressed, so be sure to speak with an attorney about what needs to be done in order to properly modify your plans.
4. Failing to Fund a Revocable Trust
Establishing a revocable trust is needed to keep your records and assets private and avoid the probate process. However, the trust must be funded while you are alive. There are sometimes advantages to holding property in your name instead of in the trust. If so, then Virginia law provides for a Revocable Transfer on Death deed which can be recorded and property then automatically passes to the trust (or other named beneficiary) at the death of the Grantor.
5. Not Naming a Guardian For Your Children
Young parents are probably the largest group of people that need Wills but don’t have them. If they have children, they need to name someone who will have physical custody of their children in the case of an untimely death. Additionally, they should name someone to be a trustee or custodian of their assets.
We strongly recommend that you hire an experienced Wills, Trusts, and Estates attorney that can help assist you through the process and inform of you what needs to be modified and when.
Our team is focused on educating you and your loved ones on the complex legal dimensions of estate planning, and doing what we can to give you peace of mind about the security of your assets and the needs of your family.
If you or your loved ones have any questions about the estate planning process and would like to talk to an estate planning attorney, call 888-691-9319 to schedule a consultation or fill out this short form to get started.