If you have already taken steps to create a comprehensive estate plan, congratulations. You are among the very few in Massachusetts and beyond who have protected their loved ones with this process. For certain, it is not always easy to write a will, establish a trust and designate powers of attorney, but in the long run, you may be saving your loved ones the confusion and grief of having to figure it out for themselves or wait for the courts to decide how to handle your estate.
You may have spent a lifetime building an estate, and it is your desire to leave your loved ones with as little worry as possible. You have taken the first step in creating a plan. However, you are not finished. It is important that you avoid some of the common mistakes that can complicate your estate plan and leave your loved ones carrying the burden.
Can you answer ‘yes’?
Few people realize that an estate plan can be quite simple and still fulfill their intentions. If your estate and its assets are complicated, you may benefit from more complex tools in your plan. However, whether simple or complex, it is important to avoid certain oversights that can render your plan useless or invalid. If you can answer yes to each of the following questions, your estate plan may be in good shape to meet your goals:
- Have you remembered to update your beneficiary designations following major life changes, such as remarriage, the death of an heir, changes in your assets or the passage of new laws?
- Have you funded all appropriate assets to your established trust?
- Is your trust the beneficiary of your annuities, life insurance policy or retirement account?
- Have you converted your 401ks and traditional IRAs to Roth products to minimize tax penalties for your loved ones who inherit these investments?
- Do all your accounts and investments have designated beneficiaries?
- Have you named a guardian or created a trust for your minor heirs instead of leaving direct bequests to them?
Of course, perhaps the most important question is, “Do you have an estate plan?” Not having a plan in the first place means your loved ones will be at the mercy of the probate court and state laws that dictate how to divide intestate estates, that is, estates that have no will. The generous thing to do is to create an adequate estate plan and revisit it regularly to ensure it is up to date and relevant.