Common Estate Planning Mistakes

Common Estate planning mistakes concept image.

Estate planning is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your assets during your life and after your death. Yet many people make mistakes that prevent them from taking advantage of all the protections an estate plan provides. In this article, our estate planning lawyers at Asset Protection & Elder Law of Georgia explain the most common estate planning mistakes we see in our practice.

Mistake #1: Underestimating what an estate plan can accomplish.

People often think that an estate plan only distributes property after they die. So, they put off making an estate plan because they don’t expect to die soon. Or they think they don’t need a plan because they don’t own a lot of property and their loved ones will automatically get anything they have. There are other reasons for not having an estate plan, and all of them come from misconceptions about what an estate plan accomplishes.

Everyone should have an estate plan, regardless of what they own, what family or loved ones they have, or any factor. If you don’t have an estate plan, Georgia laws make important decisions for you. Laws and courts determine who gets your property and who settles your estate if you pass away. But the potential problems you may face without an estate plan don’t end there.

If you have an accident or suffer an injury or sudden medical emergency, no one can make personal, financial, or medical decisions for you, if you are unable to make them yourself. Someone must ask for court authority to make those decisions. It may not be a person you would want making decisions for you. The court process causes delays and costs money when time and money are critical to your well-being.

Beyond making your own decisions instead of allowing state laws and courts to make them for you, an estate plan can accomplish many important goals, including:

  • Protecting your assets against a wide range of risks during your life and after death
  • Securing the future for minor children if something happens to you
  • Protecting your family legacy for your children and grandchildren
  • Helping you prepare for long-term and nursing home care costs, including planning ahead for Medicaid benefits
  • Structuring your estate to avoid probate to save costs, to get assets to beneficiaries sooner, and maintain the privacy of your estate
  • Protecting family members with special needs
  • Helping you address the unique concerns that you encounter later in life
  • Making certain that a person you trust makes decisions and manages your affairs on your behalf if you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated

Your own circumstances may create different needs and goals that can be addressed by a well-structured estate plan. The only way to find out how an estate plan can help you is to talk with an experienced estate planning lawyer.

Mistake #2: Thinking you don’t need help from a lawyer.

With the ready availability of forms and online services for legal documents, you may think you can use the do-it-yourself (DIY) approach to estate planning. While DIY works for a lot of tasks, attempting to create your own estate plan without professional assistance is a serious mistake. You can create substantial (and costly) legal issues for yourself and your loved ones. Those problems may not be easily fixed, or they may not be identified until it is too late to fix them.

Invalid legal documents, an incomplete estate plan, and inconsistent legal documents are just some of the risks of DIY estate planning. You may end up with documents unsuitable for your personal and financial situation that do not accomplish what you think they do. The potential problems with DIY estate planning are much greater than the relatively small amount of money you might save by not talking to a lawyer.

Mistake #3: Failing to update your estate plan.

Estate planning is not a task you do once and then forget about. You need to keep the plan up-to-date and make revisions when changes in your life affect the provisions of your legal documents.

Beneficiaries may need to be updated because of changes in your family. You may need to designate different fiduciaries for many reasons. And if your financial circumstances undergo a significant change, reviewing your estate plan with your lawyer is critical.

Talk With an Experienced Georgia Estate Planning Attorney

Our Cartersville estate planning practice at Asset Protection & Elder Law of Georgia focuses on helping clients determine their estate planning goals and using the best approach to address all their concerns relating to their well-being, assets, families, and estates. We serve clients throughout the communities northwest of Atlanta, including in Bartow County, Cobb County, Cherokee County, Gordon County, Floyd County, and Paulding County. To schedule a consultation, call us at (770) 382-0984 or contact us through our online form.

Categories: Estate Planning