At Brackney Law Office, PLLC, we've seen or been asked questions by clients that reveal some common estate planning mistakes or misunderstandings. Here are a four:
1. Having No Plan at All
The most common mistake when it comes to estate planning is not having a plan at all. Many central Kentucky families have no plans in place. If you die without a plan, state law will determine what happens to your stuff and a judge will determine who should raise your children. [Read More: Do I need a will?]
If you are incapacitated, there is no one with the authority to act on your behalf without a power of attorney in place. Without a power of attorney, a court-appointed conservator would need to be appointed to deal with your creditors, banks, credit unions, social security, and other creditors and entities holding your assets. Of course, the court proceeding and the conservator will incur costs that will have to be paid from the incapacitated person's assets.
We hope that nothing bad happens to us, but it is best to have a plan in place to address these possibilities.
2. Shhh! Secret Plans
You have a plan in place - great! What have you done with it? Do your loved ones know how to access it if something happens to you? If there is a revocable trust or a will, how will your loved ones know where to find it? If your power of attorney is needed, will your attorney-in-fact have a copy or know where to locate it? And what about your living will or healthcare surrogate designation?
Although you may not want to share beneficiary information or other details, it is important to share relevant information to those who you have designated as your executors, trustees, and surrogates.
(And no one can access your safe deposit box at the bank without a power of attorney and your power of attorney becomes ineffective upon your death. In other words, your safe deposit box at the bank isn't always the best place for these important documents.)
3. Unfinished Plans
You may have gone to a big box store and bought a DIY Last Will and Testament, or maybe you used an online provider to assemble a will for you. Are those documents signed, dated, notarized, and otherwise legally valid? Sometimes they are; sometimes they are not. If you've started your estate plan but have not finished it, then you do not have an estate plan in place.
4. Unfunded Plans
The Revocable Living Trust is signed and executed, but has it been properly funded? Are your beneficiary designations on insurance policies and retirement accounts consistent with your estate plan? It is important to properly fund your estate planning vehicles so that you can have the peace of mind that everything is "buttoned up" and you haven't left behind a mess for your loved ones.
You can also learn more about Brackney Law Office, PLLC's estate planning services by clicking here. You can even schedule an appointment right from BLO's website!
[Photo Credit: Stuart Connor]