Estate planning ensures that the end of your life proceeds the way you would wish and that those you care about have the support and guidance they need in a tough time. It’s important not to make mistakes.
While there are some major errors that can be made in an estate plan, they can be easily avoided with a little forethought and the help of an experienced South Carolina estate planning attorney.
What potential pitfalls should you keep in mind when planning your estate? Consider these five mistakes and how to avoid them:
Failing to make an estate plan.
Estate planning is the one task every South Carolina resident knows they should do but nobody really wants to face. Yet not making an estate plan is the single biggest mistake you can make.
If you die without an estate plan in place, your money and possessions will be distributed according to South Carolina’s pre-set rules – with little to no consideration of what you would have wanted. An estate plan, by contrast, allows you considerable leeway in deciding who gets what, when they receive it and in what form.
Creating an estate plan also gives your family guidance about making tough end-of-life decisions at a time when you may be unable to express your own wishes. It can prevent many disputes from happening before they even begin, and give everyone greater peace of mind in a troubling time.
Failing to fund your revocable living trust.
Trusts are a flexible estate planning tool that can serve a number of purposes. Creating a trust is only the first step, however. A trust should also be “funded,” with your assets re-titled in the name of the trust. Funding your trust ensures that your intentions about the trust’s assets and purposes are clear and that no leftover items accidentally end up subject to the probate process.
Failing to state what happens to your personal effects.
Many people have personal items they prize, such as jewelry, artwork, collectibles, antiques and family heirlooms. Yet many of these people fail to mention in their estate plans what should happen to these items. They assume their loved ones will be able to divide everything once they’re gone.
In fact, because personal items are among the most difficult things to place a money value on and carry the most personal and emotional attachment, they can be among the most difficult for family members to deal with while administering an estate. Instead of leaving division of these items to chance (or a court), make a plan.
Failing to choose the right fiduciaries.
Your personal representative, successor trustees, attorneys-in-fact and health-care agents will have considerable power over decisions made that affect the end of your life and the distribution of your estate. Choosing the right people is one of the most important decisions you can make. Your attorney can help you determine who the right people are and name them accordingly.
Failing to update your estate plan.
Any major life event requires an update to your estate plan, as do the changes that come simply as a result of growing older. If you’ve married, divorced, remarried, lost a spouse, gained a child, seen your children reach adulthood, moved or made any major purchases like real estate or investment tools, your estate plan may need revision. Don’t hesitate to talk to your attorney about updating an estate plan or will.