Estate Planning: 4 Things We Should Not Do!

estate planning

Continuing with our “list” theme, here’s a list of things we should not do with respect to estate planning:

  1. Assume that One Size Fits All:  Everyone’s goals and circumstances are different. For that reason, everyone’s estate plan is different. Your estate planning attorney should  review your goals, family circumstances, health issues, and financials and create a specific plan that works for you, rather than a cookie cutter plan that may not be relevant to your situation.   
  2. Name the Wrong Person as Fiduciary: Your fiduciaries (your trustee, executor, financial and healthcare agents) are going to take on incredibly important roles for you. They are the ones you will entrust to make difficult financial and healthcare decisions for you when you are no longer able to make those decisions for yourselves. Being honest with yourself and appointing people who you communicate effectively with, know your circumstances and wishes, and who you trust to carry them out is important.
  3. Think That You’re Done: The best way to think about your estate plan is as a work in progress. Whether it be marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, sudden illness, or a death in the family, there are several reasons why your estate plan may need to be updated or reviewed.   Maybe, when you established your estate planning documents originally, your goal was to avoid estate tax and now you are concerned about nursing home issues.  These goals are different and may require alternative language in your documents.  We generally recommend that our clients review their plans with us every five (5) years.
  4. Wait:  Don’t wait for the crisis to hit.  Often people think erroneously that they need to reach a certain age or have a certain amount of assets to justify getting an estate plan. Others think, “she/he is my spouse, she/he can take care of it automatically.”  People may also use denial to delay having an estate plan.   For example, a person who is diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s may understandably think “this isn’t happening to me, and I can wait awhile.”   In such a case, because everyone’s journey is different and progresses at different rates, we recommend that you “walk quickly” to your elder law attorney to either have your documents reviewed, or to get documents in place.   Having an estate plan in place for yourself when you are facing a disability is a priceless gift to you and for your loved ones because it avoids and alleviates so much stress during a difficult time.