When many people hear the words “estate planning,” they assume it’s just for the wealthy. But that’s not the case because everyone can benefit from an estate plan. And when you’re creating one, you’ll want to avoid some common mistakes.
Before we look at those mistakes, let’s go over what estate planning is designed to accomplish. Essentially, an estate plan allows you to pass on your assets in the way you desire. But it can also specify other actions, such as naming someone to care for your minor children if you were no longer around. In creating an estate plan, several key documents are involved, including a will, a trust, a financial power of attorney and a medical power of attorney or a health care directive.
Now, let’s consider a few estate-planning mistakes:
• Not communicating your plans. You’ll need to inform your family about whom you’ve chosen as executor – the individual who will administer your estate – and whom you’ve named as the trustee – the person who will manage your trust’s assets. (You can also choose a trust company to handle this duty.) And to help avoid unpleasant surprises when your estate is being settled, consider letting your children or other close relatives know who will be receiving what.
• Not reviewing your plans periodically – Once you create your estate plans, don’t forget about them. Over time, your personal situation may change – you may experience a remarriage or bring in new children. Your interests may change, too – perhaps you’ll become deeply involved in supporting a favorite charitable organization. Given these and other potential changes, you’ll want to review your estate plans once in a while to see if they need to be modified.
• Not updating beneficiary designations – Every so often, you may want to review the beneficiary designations on your life insurance policies, investment accounts and retirement assets. As mentioned, changes in your life, such as remarriage and the addition of new children, may affect your beneficiaries. Beneficiary designations are powerful and can even supersede your will, so you’ll want to update them as needed. Also, if you have a 529 education savings plan, you’ll want to name a successor owner – someone who can take over your 529 if you were to pass away.
• Not re-registering assets placed in a trust – A living trust offers you many potential benefits, such as the ability to bypass the time-consuming and highly public process of probate when it’s time to settle your estate. However, just establishing the trust, by itself, may be insufficient – you likely also need to re-register assets, such as your investments, so they are officially owned by the trust, not by you. This is essential for the trust to work as you intended.
Here’s one other mistake – not getting the help you need. Estate planning can be complex, so you’ll want to work with an attorney, and possibly with your financial advisor and tax professional, too.
By avoiding key mistakes and working with a qualified team of professionals, you can create and maintain an estate plan that will help you leave the legacy you desire.
[Arnetta Tolley, Financial Advisor Edward Jones Investments 626-744-2740 or firstname.lastname@example.org.]