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Estate planning mistakes and how you can avoid them

The start of a new year naturally makes people start thinking about their future. If you are one of those people, you may have thought about the coming year, maybe even thought about what next year at this time will look like. You may be someone who has even thought about 10, 20 or even 40 years from now, and not how that may look to you, but what will be in store for your family.

If you have done this, that means you are thinking of an estate plan. If that is the case, then congratulations, you are making sure you are taking care of your family right now for a time in the future when you are not around. As you begin your estate planning you want to make sure you are doing the right thing, this not only includes making sure what you should be doing with an estate plan, but what mistakes and mis-steps you need to avoid.

Not providing adequate information – You do not want to leave out crucial information that your executor or loved ones will need and how they can access that information. This means every asset you accumulate should be accounted for. Information on every account should be noted, including online usernames, passwords and even answers to password questions to access accounts will be vital. Where the key is to a safety deposit box and even where you kept important documents need to be noted. Without including this vital information, you will only be causing frustration and delaying the transfer of your wishes. Sometimes, all this information can be contained in one document for easy access and viewing.

Missing beneficiary designations – It you do not name a beneficiary for things like retirement accounts, insurance policies or annuity contracts, then these assets will be headed to probate where someone else besides you will get to make the decision on how they are distributed. The way this can veer off course is when you believe that naming a beneficiary in your will for your mutual funds is all you need to do. However, that beneficiary will also need to be listed with the fund company. If not, your will does not supersede the retirement account. Your estate planning attorney can answer your questions and guide you to make sure something like this does not happen.

Not updating the plan – An estate plan is not something you do one time and then never think about again. As your life changes and progresses so should your estate plan. Procrastinating after a divorce to change your plan will mean if you meet an untimely demise, your ex-spouse will be entitled to everything you still have listed in your will. At some point, you may be seeing more grand-kids arrive than what you can even count. Even a one-year delay in updating could leave two or three grandchildren out of a will or trust. You should meet with your estate planning attorney at least once a year to go over changes and even to learn if there are new tax laws that might change some designations.

If you have looked to the future and realized you want to have an estate plan in place for your family and friends, you should contact an estate planning attorney right away. Working on your plan may take a little time, some thought and even effort, but once it is complete, you will have peace of mind that your final wishes have been secured.

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