If you have spent a great deal of time considering your estate planning options, you probably feel ready to take the plunge. You may have in mind exactly how you want to express your last wishes, what health care directives you will include and whom you will designate to receive your assets after your death.
Before you visit your attorney to execute your plans, you may want to consider some of the common missteps people make when planning their estates. Avoiding these issues at this early stage will minimize the chances of confusion and, perhaps, disputes when you are not around to clarify your intent.
Know your assets
A common mistake people make when planning their estates is to fail to properly examine their assets. Having belongings properly valued and ensuring something as basic as having your name consistent on all titles and deeds in your trusts will spare your loved ones uncertainty.
Another important consideration is estate taxes. Although California has no estate tax, your estate may qualify for the federal tax. Since tax laws change frequently, you would be wise to have an attorney assist you with this and to revisit your estate plan every few years to make sure it meets the current situation.
Know your heirs
You know your children better than anyone, so choosing the simplest route may not be the best for your situation. While many people can tap the eldest child as their estate executor, this is not always a prudent choice. There is no obligation for you to name an executor based on birth order if there is a more responsible and capable person who can carry the burden of being your estate's personal representative.
Leaving your assets directly to your children may be an adequate plan, but if your family includes members who have chemical addictions, make questionable choices or are too young to handle an inheritance, you may want to investigate the benefits of establishing one of the appropriate forms of trusts.
Know your options
Once you have made the many decisions involved in estate planning, you may be tempted to keep it all secret until after your death. This is a mistake that leads to many combative will contests or battles of differing opinions if you should become incapacitated. Estate planning advisors recommend having frank discussions with your family and heirs concerning your plans so that you can deal with disputes now while you can defend your decisions.
Since sharing your estate plan can be a delicate and intimidating prospect, you may want to seek advice from your attorney about how best to approach the subject. Your attorney can also provide guidance when you need to revise your estate plan and assistance to your family when the time comes to probate your estate.