17 Bloopers

Marc Carlson |

  • Avoid Bloopers: You can avoid committing “bloopers” in estate planning. Take a look at the 17 Common Bloopers. An educated person will be motivated to take immediate estate planning action and to urge not only parents, but also adult children, to do likewise.
  • Adverse Consequences of Bloopers: By acting early, you can often prevent a legal “illness” instead of attempting to treat it—often after it’s too late. The unintended adverse consequence of Bloopers usually occur when untrained people do nothing, try to do it themselves, use non-specialists, or fail to keep a once good plan updated by a competent, reputable and experienced attorney. You can fall into either one of two pits of legal quicksand, namely: (1) not having any estate planning in place at all, or (2) having an inadequate or bad plan, or a once good but now outdated plan.  “Bloopers” in this arena can permanently damage family relationships, waste hard-earned after-tax dollars, and cause miserable predicaments that can impact mental, emotional, physical and financial health.

SEVENTEEN COMMON BLOOPERS IN ESTATE PLANNING

  1. Thinking you really know what you need to understand about wills and trusts.
  2. Not doing a trust plan that includes lifetime disability and death planning.
  3. Accepting the myth that a trust plan is just for the “wealthy”.
  4. Doing it yourself.
  5. Not planning effectively or at all for your possible lifetime mental incapacity caused by stroke, dementia or accident.
  6. Using a generic on-line trust, which doesn’t include legal advice from an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney, and which doesn’t take into account your particular family situation and all other relevant circumstances.
  7. Not knowing what your plan really says and does regarding all your assets.
  8. Thinking a Will and General Durable Power of Attorney will always be enough.
  9. Thinking Joint Tenancy ownership is always a safe thing to do.
  10. Not naming a guardian for minor children.
  11. Leaving money outright to heirs.
  12. Not funding your trust and not titling newly acquired assets in the trust’s name.
  13. Not coordinating account ownership agreements at financial institutions and investment companies with your overall estate plan.
  14. Not coordinating beneficiary designations for non-probate assets with your overall plan.
  15. Choosing the wrong fiduciaries.
  16. Making uncoordinated “modifications” or “amendments” on your own.
  17. Creating a plan, forgetting about it, and not keeping your plan up to date.
  • Estate Planning Is Your Responsibility to Your Family: Don’t feel badly that you don’t know what you need to know about estate planning (wills, trusts, ancillary documents, legacy planning, asset protection, etc.). You aren’t suppose to. That’s not your job. That’s why they make estate planning attorneys!
  • Estate Planning Is Necessary:  Estate planning is necessary for every adult, regardless of the accumulated value of assets, whether age 18 or 80.  The legal and financial aspects of estate planning for your golden years, your own possible period of mental disability, and your own assets distribution after your death, have become almost as technical and specialized as in the field of medicine. It’s truly necessary these days to obtain professional, specialized legal counseling. You should respect an attorney’s Juris Doctor Degree, state testing, oath of office, ethics requirements, yearly continuing legal education and cumulative experience.  Whether in law or medicine, seeing a specialist instead of a generalist for some issues in not only smart, but it’s a necessity.
  • What Is “Estate Planning”? People may get confused when both attorneys and investment or financial advisors say they do “estate planning.” The term has different meanings in their two fields.  For investment professionals or financial planners, “estate planning” refers to the building and protecting of financial assets through the use of financial products and investments. CPAs, financial planners, and bank employees may not render specific legal advice or prepare legal documents. However, their financial services are highly valuable, and they should provide their clients with the additional service of spotting potential legal issues and advising their customers to see independent legal counsel.

Regarding wills and trust planning, the term is meant to refer solely to legal aspects of estate planning by licensed and experienced attorneys, which includes rendering legal advice and drafting legal documents—both to provide for a person’s physical and financial well being during a period of mental disability caused by stroke, dementia or accident, as well as transferring his or her assets and legacy after death.

  • Save Yourself Money and Headaches: We all know it’s frequently less expensive (and less painful) in the long run to let a trained person do or help you to do certain tasks from the outset, rather than for an untrained person to attempt them, which makes it harder for the professional to later “fix” the mess made, assuming it’s not too late to even be fixable.  Do-it-yourself or self-help in legal matters typically will only make your situation worse—often like a swan diving into a legal quicksand pit!
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