Now that tax season is over, really over, you need to give yourself the gift of planning ahead. There’s truly no bad time to consider what you want to happen to your assets in the event of a trauma such as divorce or death. In fact, doing so can give you peace of mind now, knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of and your wishes will be carried out.
If that isn’t enough to persuade you to get started, or to review existing plans, then let me share this list of eight estate-planning mistakes that I don’t like to see anyone make.
Old North State Trust, LLC (ONST) periodically produces publications as a service to clients and friends. The information contained in these publications is intended to provide general information about issues related to trust, investment and estate related topics. Readers should be aware that the facts may vary depending upon individual circumstances. The information contained in these publications is intended solely for informational purposes, is proprietary to ONST and is not guaranteed to be accurate, complete or timely.
Susan Willett is the director of trust services and oversees all aspects of trust administration for Old North State Trust, LLC. Old North State Trust, a North Carolina chartered trust company, provides: asset management services; income, estate and trust tax consulting; retirement planning and administration; and trustee and estate services to both individuals and businesses. Old North State Trust professionals have many years of experience and for over a decade have assisted clients in identifying and reaching their financial goals. For more information, visit www.oldnorthstatetrust.com or call
- Not doing it! Some clients think they don’t need an estate plan because they don’t have a large enough estate or they think they have all the time in the world to plan. They're wrong on both cases! There are many reasons to plan – both financial and non-financial. Everyone knows we aren’t promised tomorrow, so don’t put off until tomorrow what you should do today.
- Divorce. It can happen even in the seemingly strongest marriages. With a divorce rate of 60 percent, it’s either happened to you or to someone close to you. Failing to plan for this event could be as devastating as failing to plan for death.
- Not seeing the forest for the trees. Sometimes clients get too caught up in one or two issues and miss the bigger picture. For example, worrying about who will be given Grandma’s Chinese vase may not be the most important aspect of your overall estate plan. It is the job of the financial and estate planner to help people plan for the worst and hope for the best.
- Getting in the “self-serve” line. With the abundance of information available to create your own estate-planning documents, the temptation to do so is hard to resist. Combine that with the willingness of family and friends to act as executor and trustee and you have a powerful lure. However, the cost of correcting estate-planning mistakes after your death will generally be much more expensive than doing it right the first time.
- Forgetting Fido as well as other non-financial assets. An estate plan should include provisions for more than just your financial assets. Plans for family pets, digital assets, alarm codes and passwords, and safe deposit inventories should be made as well.
- Failing to include estate-planning documents that may be crucial while you are alive. These could include durable power of attorney, declaration of natural death (living will), and health care power of attorney.
- Failing to give careful consideration to the disposition of IRA funds, tax-deferred retirement accounts and possible other non-probate assets.
- Follow-through. All the planning in the world amounts to nothing if the documents are not executed properly, ownership of assets is not properly registered, a qualified executor has not been named, and beneficiary designations are not updated.