The Do’s and Don’ts of Estate Planning

Nobody really wants to spend their time thinking about death and incapacity. It’s an uncomfortable topic that’s easy to avoid…until it’s too late. But here’s the hard truth—failing to properly plan your estate can have hugely negative impacts on your loved ones and legacy when you’re gone.

That’s why getting an estate plan in order is so crucial. It ensures your final wishes are carried out, your assets go where you want, and you have a voice in important decisions even when you can’t speak for yourself. An estate plan alleviates huge burdens and conflicts for those you leave behind.

To help you get started on the right path, here are some key do’s and don’ts when it comes to estate planning:

DO Hire an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

While there are plenty of online templates and will-writing software options out there, estate planning is simply too complex and nuanced to attempt completely on your own. Even a small mistake can unravel your whole plan. An experienced estate planning lawyer will walk you through every scenario and ensure your documents are properly prepared and updated over time.

DON’T Procrastinate on Getting a Plan in Place

None of us likes to dwell on unpleasant topics, but putting off estate planning can open you up to all sorts of worst-case scenarios unfolding. The longer you wait, the greater the potential complications. Take care of this tough task now to avoid a future mess.

DO Consider Setting Up a Revocable Living Trust

For many people, a revocable living trust can be an effective way to manage their assets and avoid probate entirely. You maintain full control of the trust and assets while alive. After death, the trust assets transfer automatically to your beneficiaries without probate court involvement. This saves time, money, and headaches for your heirs.

DON’T Forget About Long-Term Care Planning

As you get older, the likelihood of needing long-term care like nursing home stays or in-home health aides becomes much higher. These costs can rapidly deplete your life savings if you don’t plan accordingly. As part of a comprehensive estate plan, be sure to explore options like long-term care insurance or setting up an asset protection trust to cover these potential expenses.

DO Outline Your Healthcare Wishes in an Advance Directive

No one likes to envision being bedridden or on life support. But those worst-case scenarios sometimes happen, which is why outlining your preferences in an advance healthcare directive is a must. This legal document specifies your choices for life-sustaining medical treatments, palliative care, end-of-life decisions, and more. It ensures your values and wishes are honored when you cannot communicate them yourself.

DON’T Neglect to Update Beneficiary Designations

Failing to properly update beneficiary designations on investment accounts, life insurance policies, and the like can unravel even the most carefully prepared estate plan. Any time you experience a major life event like a birth, death, marriage, or divorce, it’s critically important to revisit and update your designated beneficiaries to reflect your current wishes.

DO Consider Setting Up a Trust for Minor Children

If you have kids under 18, establishing a trust to protect their inheritance is a wise move. Without a trust and properly named guardians in place, there’s a chance family members could end up in court fights over their care and assets.  

DON’T Neglect to Store Your Documents Properly

Once you’ve finalized all your estate planning documents like wills, trusts, and powers of attorney, gather them together and store them securely. Make copies for your loved ones as well. Ensure your executor knows exactly where to find originals when needed. Proper document storage prevents hassles and extra costs later.

DO Review and Update Your Estate Plan Every Few Years

Over time, laws change, families grow, and assets shift—all of which means your estate plan needs periodic reviews and updates to ensure it still works for your current situation. An outdated plan can create as many problems as having no plan at all. Make calendar reminders to review and revise things every 3-5 years at minimum.

Estate planning may not be fun, but doing it properly gives you invaluable peace of mind about your future and your family’s stability when you’re gone. If you need assistance getting started or reviewing your current plan, reach out to our team of caring estate planning professionals today by scheduling a consultation. We’ll guide you through every step to create a tailored plan that protects what matters most.

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Houck Menninger Law, LLC (“HM Law”) has placed the information on this website as a service to the general public. Use of this website does not in any manner constitute an attorney‐client relationship between HM Law and the user. While the information on this site is about legal issues, it is not intended as legal advice or as a substitute for the specific advice of your own attorney. Anyone seeking specific legal advice or assistance should retain an attorney. This website may also include inaccuracies or typographical errors and may not otherwise be up-to-date.

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