Planning Perspectives

A look at life and finance from every angle.

From personal to professional, from family to financial, there are many facets to your life. Yet, each is interconnected. Planning Perspectives is a source of ideas and information to help you make the most of them all, all together.


Estate Planning: Mistakes to Avoid

February 15, 2017 Estate, Family, Living Well, Planning Well

Don’t overlook these eight common estate planning problems.

Regardless of your age or current health, mapping out a clear plan for your estate will help avoid unnecessary turmoil for your loved ones. Estate planning goes beyond wills to include trusts, powers of attorney and letters of instructions. Talk to your advisor about what you need, and be sure to look out for these common mistakes.

A will-based estate plan or no estate plan.

Without the benefit of a clear estate plan or will, family members can be drawn into complicated legal proceedings that are both logistically and emotionally draining.

An unfunded revocable living trust.

Some assets will require more legal footwork to handle properly during the estate planning process, such as real estate, intellectual property, and certain types of stock, business partnerships and promissory notes. Using a funded revocable living trust allows you to make changes to the document, and the wealth you’ve accumulated can continue to grow.

Vulnerable assets.

Assets held as joint property can pose problems if a surviving spouse has a lot of debt. Should the unexpected happen, you can protect your loved ones by ensuring assets are titled correctly and insured properly. Otherwise, your estate could be held up in court as debtors seek payment via those assets.

Too much or not enough life insurance.

It is common for older investors to be over-insured, and policies with high cash values can be tapped to provide cash flow or terminated in favor of other investments. Younger investors tend to be under-insured, which can leave loved ones vulnerable to lost wages and unmanageable debt.

Assets left outright to beneficiaries.

Likewise, an estate plan that provides for outright distributions to your beneficiaries leaves that inheritance unprotected from creditors and lawsuits.

Family members as successor trustees.

If there are two or more co-trustees who don’t get along, they could end up fighting in court. You can avoid this by naming an objective party as the primary trustee and family members as co-trustees.

Outdated beneficiary designations.

When updating your estate plan, be sure to make any necessary revisions to beneficiary designations.

Lack of long-term care planning.

A surprising number of people fail to plan for extended illness or deteriorating mental capacity. Consider some form of long-term care and how such a plan will be funded.

There is much comfort in taking preemptive measures to ensure your affairs are in order. Your team of financial and legal professionals can address any concerns you might have and help to institute a plan you’re comfortable with.