Common estate planning missteps

Minnesota residents are likely aware that many people find it difficult to consider what happens after they pass away. However, they may be surprised to learn how many lack even a rudimentary estate plan. A recent survey by an online legal services company found that 64 percent of Americans have not made a last will and testament. If these individuals decide to take action and put an estate plan into place, there are common pitfalls that they would be wise to avoid.

One of the most frequent mistakes is to assume that only those with high-net-worth estates or complex financial affairs need to bother with an estate plan. Often, people believe that the estate tax exemption is sufficient for them and that they do not need to concern themselves with such matters. However, an effective estate plan is not merely designed to minimize tax exposure. Its primary role is often to avoid family conflict and ensure that an individual's wishes are followed after they pass away.

Another pitfall to avoid is believing that youth or good health absolve the need for documents like a living trust or health care mandate. An accident or illness can leave an individual incapacitated without warning, and strict regulations may prevent important financial or medical decisions from being taken while the courts are called upon to appoint a conservator or guardian.

An attorney with estate planning experience will likely understand the reluctance that many feel when dealing with end of life issues. However, they will also be aware of the peace of mind that is often enjoyed after tackling an issue that has often been put off. An effective estate plan can aid in avoiding conflict, and it can help to ensure that one's family is well taken care of after their passing.

Source: Forbes, "7 Common Estate-Planning Blunders Not To Make", Sheryl Nance-Nash, September 15, 2014

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