Estate planning takes more than looking around the house and determining who gets what. Sentimental things are an essential part of the family legacy, but it is also crucial for a parent or both parents to get their estate in order. With help from an experienced family law attorney, they can make important decisions for passing assets, cash and other essential things to beneficiaries while minimizing the legal tax burden of doing so.
Thoughtful estate plans not only consider for such eventualities as death, but these can also provide guidance to address such issues as an incapacitating illness, who makes health care decisions in these matters as well as who handle power of attorney and closing the estate after death. It is also important to remember that these decisions should be updated as the needs of the family change.
Foreseeable issues that can be avoided
No one can predict the future with certainty, but common estate planning mistakes include:
- Forgetting key elements: This is a complicated process and details will be unavoidably overlooked, but leaving big decisions like what to do with a business or a house is a mistake.
- Not sharing details: Some families do not talk about money, but it is best for all concerned if the parents share details with the beneficiaries so they are better prepared.
- Not planning for illness: People often experience chronic debilitating illness towards the end of their lives, which can impact families emotionally and financially, leaving them unsure of what to do.
- Gifting money: This is a simple way to begin the process of transferring money tax-free (up to $14,000 from individuals and $28,000 from couples) to loved ones. It may allow them to pay down student loans or go towards other financial burdens.
- Putting a child’s name on the deed: This can become a taxable gift after death, and cause other complications within the family dynamic.
- Pick the wrong executor: Spouses and children are blood relatives, but not everyone has the interest or ability to address significant decisions during probate, fill out paperwork and work with the entire family.
It also is a mistake to put it off
Many do not like to contemplate their mortality, or would rather focus on other things, but thrusting this burden upon families as they go through the grieving process can add additional stress. An attorney with experience crafting and maintaining an estate plan or assisting families through the probate process can be invaluable for making this time of transition as smooth as possible.