Avoiding Common Estate Planning Mistakes

Wrongful Death Lawyer

It is well understood that relatively few American adults have taken the time to engage in the estate planning process as our own wrongful death lawyer knows well; accidents happen all the time and without an estate plan in place, families are often left unprotected. Respected estimates indicate that only about one out of every three adults in the U.S. has taken this step to preserve their legal rights in the event of their death or incapacitation due to injury or illness. As a result, if you’re thinking about crafting an estate plan, you’re ahead of the game in a very positive way.

Yet, it’s important to approach estate planning in specific ways. Otherwise, the efforts that you intend to make may not be enforceable or may cause significant stresses for your loved ones down the road. In order to better ensure that your estate plan functions in the ways that you need it to, it’s important to understand how to avoid common estate planning missteps that may be consequential in nature.

Leaning Too Heavily on Online Resources

As an experienced estate planning lawyer – including those who practice at Davis, Johnson & Kallal – can confirm, surviving loved ones are increasingly discovering that their loved one’s estate planning documentation doesn’t meet the requirements of state law. As a result, these grieving people are left to sort out legally complex matters without the ability to ask the deceased to confirm or clarify important information.

This trend seems to be tied to the prevalence of estate planning documentation that is made available either for free or at a low cost online. While these resources may initially seem appealing – making estate planning more affordable means that more people will embrace the process! – their too-often legal inaccuracies and generalizations that don’t take state law sufficiently into account make them worse than ineffective.

Why worse than ineffective? When a product is ineffective, you can return it and/or seek and alternative product. When people die and it turns out that their estate planning documentation isn’t enforceable, all of their efforts to protect their own interests and their loved ones’ interests flies out the window. Their surviving loved ones may also find that the estate in question will need to be divided up per state law, not the deceased’s wishes. Few people like when the government interferes during their lifetime. Do you want it interfering after you’re gone? If not, you’ll need to at least have an attorney review any documentation you complete online, even if you don’t want to work with a lawyer to craft your estate plan in the first place.

Not Updating Their Preferences

Many people are under the impression that once an estate plan has been crafted, their job is done. In reality, an estate plan is a set of living documents. Meaning, (that with very few exceptions) it should be updated as often as it needs to be.

Generally, you’ll want to update your estate plan any time that your needs or preferences change. Similarly reviewing your estate plan after big life events (births, deaths, marriages, etc.) can help to ensure that the courts will enforce your most current wishes, not a set of wishes that no longer applies.