Plan and Retire

Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

Erin Palmer

December 11, 2019

Seniors planning estate

It can be emotionally taxing to make plans to cover your estate in the event that something happens to you. But making a plan now can help save your loved ones from a lot of stress, protect all that you’ve worked to build and most importantly, ensure your wishes are known.

Estate planning isn’t only for the wealthy. An estate plan allows you to control what happens to your assets and property if you die or become incapacitated. Without a plan, your state government will determine how they’re distributed, which can be a lengthy and costly process for your loved ones.

“The number one reason people do an estate plan is because they do not want to leave the burden to their family,” said Carolyn Bare, a wealth management officer from Suncoast Trust and Investment Services.”

And while it may seem like an uncomfortable process, knowing what you should and shouldn’t do can help you and your family. Here are some of the most common estate planning mistakes to avoid:

Not Tailoring Your Plan to Your Specific Heirs

Of course you have equal love for your family members. But the way that your assets are divided and disbursed should be based on each individual. People have different needs and different spending and savings habits. So your plan should reflect that.

Be honest with what would be best for your heirs. Sometimes you might need to protect heirs and access to your assets from a spouse, their creditors or even themselves. Some people may not be able to handle having too much money at a time. Others might not be strong decision makers or could be bad with money.

If one of your heirs has special needs, that is also important to consider while planning. It could be chronic illness, a developmental disability, dementia, or any number of conditions that may require additional consideration.

Depending on the particular heir, it might be better to deliver the assets over a period of time rather than all at once. As you plan your estate, think through what makes the most sense for each heir. Ask questions to your team if you aren’t sure what option would be best.

Learn More about Estate Planning
Suncoast offers free workshops and webinars about a variety of topics, including an in-depth look at estate planning. Check out our upcoming workshops and webinars to get registered.

Choosing the Wrong Trustee

It is so important to choose the right trustee, because the trustee manages the assets that are in a trust. Remember, your trustee can be sued for investment loss. So if you choose someone without financial expertise, it could be a liability if an issue comes up later.

Take time to weigh the value of a corporate trustee vs. a family member. Keep in mind that the person you choose needs to be educated about the responsibility. There needs to be documentation for every decision that details how much money comes out and why.

Your trustee should also be included in the meetings that you have about your trust. Whether you’re meeting with your financial advisor, CPA or attorney, your trustee needs to be present.

An ideal trustee is able to remain neutral. Often, it is difficult for family members to be able to perform trustee duties without being swayed by emotions. Paying a trustee or using a corporate trustee can help remove the emotional aspect so the decisions can remain neutral.

Being a trustee is a major responsibility, so take care to choose wisely.

Not Using the Right Resources

Estate planning requires expertise. Working with the right team and using the proper resources can help make it simple for you to get what you need without making a costly mistake.

An expert can help you plan for taxes and wealth transfers in the most efficient way possible. It is a huge help to have someone with the expertise to navigate areas that you may not know much about.

There are so many things to consider, like learning that all assets are not necessarily trust assets. And even after the trust is written, you need to make sure that your assets are registered and titled correctly and that your plan reflects the most current laws.

A trust company can help you determine what your best options are and help you find the resources you need for every step in the process.

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