The holidays are wonderful opportunities to be with warm friends and family. Our lives are so busy now that many of us only see our parents, grandparents, and other aging loved ones once or twice a year, often during the wintry months.
It is during these holiday visits that you might come to a tough realization. That realization is that your mom or dad, aunt or uncle, grandma or grandpa isn’t as sharp as they used to be. Losing a step or two is not a death sentence–not even close–but it is a sign that you should get serious about estate planning if you haven’t already.
Perhaps your aging loved one already has a Will or power of attorney. Ironically, estate planning documents that are not regularly updated can cause surprises; a good estate plan will prevent surprises when the planner passes away.
If holiday visits prompt you to revisit a family member’s estate plan, watch out for these potential issues.
- Unfunded trusts.
Trusts are dynamic estate planning documents that provide a lot of flexibility. There are many different types, and they can offer myriad benefits for prudent estate planners. However, many people neglect to actually fund trusts they create. Funding a trust means retitling assets to have them be owned by the trust and not the grantor, or creator of the trust.
- Irresponsible helpers.
Even the best-written estate plans can cause problems for beneficiaries and heirs if the individuals tasked with carrying out the plan are not up to the task. A trust needs a trustee, a Will needs an executor, a power of attorney needs an agent, and so on. Each of these helpers must have enough maturity and intelligence to prevent mismanagement.
- Not having alternate agents.
Finding the perfect person to act as your agent or trustee is nice, but your estate plan as a whole isn’t perfect until you have at least one backup for each position. That advice goes for all of your beneficiaries and heirs, as well. If you can’t find suitable alternates, work with your attorney to find a professional service.
- Not updating after a divorce.
Most people’s estate plans have their spouse’s names all over the documents. Spouses are commonly beneficiaries, power-of-attorney agents, heirs, and trustees. In most cases, it would not be appropriate to have an ex-spouse partially in charge of carrying out an estate plan. Divorce is not the only major life event that necessitates a review of an estate plan.
- Not speaking with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney.
Do-it-yourself estate planning services abound online, but the old adage rings true: you get what you pay for. At best, you are taking a big gamble with your prized assets. Even an attorney who doesn’t regularly practice in this legal area may not know state-specific rules and advanced techniques that can ultimately save money for you and your beneficiaries.
The team at Solan, Park & Robello will work with you, your loved one, or anyone else who matters to discern the optimal estate planning strategy for the estate in question. Having no hidden surprises in your estate plan gives you security and peace of mind. Call our firm at (415) 777-3300 to set up your free 15-minute consultation.
Solan, Park & Robello
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