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The Most Common Mistakes Made During the Estate Planning Process

No one wants to think about passing away – but it is a reality that all of us must face at some point.

For many people, a reluctance to begin the estate planning process can lead to them kicking the can down the road until it’s too late, leaving a costly, time-consuming mess for their family and friends to clean up.

Want to bolster your own peace of mind and provide for your family? Then you’ll want to watch out for these four common estate planning errors:

Procrastinating or Putting Off Estate Planning Altogether

In some ways, the most common estate planning error is simply not having an estate plan in place.

Should this happen, your family will be left with a mountain of financial obligations, dense paperwork, and other personal responsibilities, with little to no guidance from you on how to handle things. Similarly, if you wait too long to handle some of the common aspects of estate planning – including updating your will, naming an executor, and planning for the possibility of the estate tax – you could leave some of the most important considerations completely up to chance, causing problems for your loved ones and creating the chance that your last wishes won’t be respected.

For the sake of your affairs and your family, it’s better to begin the estate planning process early. After all, you never know what life may bring for you and your family – and it’s certainly best to be prepared.

Not Meeting With a Legal Professional

Some people believe that their estates are so simple that they won’t need to consult with anyone. Others turn to free internet resources exclusively.

While it is certainly possible to come up with a basic estate plan on your own, this process is often much more nuanced and detail-oriented than many people believe.

Bottom line? Getting your affairs in order isn’t a cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all proposition. Probate rules differ from state to state, and every individual’s needs will be totally unique and unpredictable.

Speaking with an experienced professional will provide you with the personalized attention it takes to ensure that you’ve covered all of your bases, and may even expose you to information that you didn’t know before reaching out. What’s more, an attorney with experience in areas of probate and estate planning will have a network of financial and tax experts they may be able to refer you to, should you need a recommendation or specialized assistance.

Failing to Account for Your Entire Estate

In very rare cases, a person’s estate can avoid probate altogether. But, in Illinois, this isn’t likely. Even if you think you don’t have enough assets for probate to matter, it’s important to have at least a basic estate plan in place; a good rule of thumb is that if you have debts and/or own real estate, you’ll need an estate plan.

What’s more, when considering their lot in life, many people fail to account for their entire estate.

Life is hectic, and it’s easy to forget about a seldom-used account, a stock portfolio or royalties, or a precious family heirloom that you’d really like to see passed on to a specific heir. Understanding how and when your assets will pass along to your heirs and named beneficiaries is a vital step to ensuring your own peace of mind down the line – not to mention simplifying things for your family!

Not Planning for Incapacitation

While it may be unpleasant to discuss or plan for, the reality is that accidents and unforeseen events happen all the time. None of us can take our health or stability for granted.

A well-thought-out estate plan will plan for the possibility of an unexpected or long-term disability by preparing for questions such as who will handle your finances, take care of your children or pets, or make vital health care decisions when you cannot do so on your own. To address these matters, you will want to look into designating power of attorney and may want to consider a living trust; you will also want to consult with your legal advisor about an advanced healthcare directive or living will, which will help clarify and designate your end-of-life wishes in the event that you cannot make decisions on your own behalf.

Want to avoid these frustrating mistakes? Then it’s time to reach out to an experienced estate planning attorney. Chicago Probate Lawyers is here to help set you up with the estate plan that will best address the unique needs of you and your family. Drop us a line today with any questions or to get the conversation started!


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