The COVID-19 pandemic illuminates the need for planning. Attentive estate planning is one of the most vital things you can do for yourself and your family. Of course, no one wants to think about this topic and it’s understandable. However, once you have something in place you will feel a sense of relief, especially in times of crisis.
Even if you already have documents in place, it is important to review them periodically and update them as needed. Every Estate Plan is unique, but the mistakes people make when executing them are more or less the same.
Below is a list of the most common mistakes and issues in Estate Planning:
Not Updating Your Estate Plan
Your Estate Plan should be reviewed at least every 5 years and after every major life event. The life events that would affect your plan include marriage or divorce, having children, death, or a change in your assets. Make sure that your plan reflects your wishes at all times. Laws are also constantly changing and you don’t want to have a plan that makes things complicated for your loved ones when the time comes. For example, many banks won’t accept a durable power of attorney that is more than 5 years old. If you are incapacitated and your chosen Agent needs to take control of your finances, an older power of attorney can make things more complicated than they need to be.
Choosing the Wrong Personal Representative/Trustee/Agent
It is crucial that you spend time considering who would be best suited to handle your Estate after your death or during your incapacity. You may want to discuss it with the person as well to ensure that they would be willing to handle the responsibility when the time comes.
Don’t put off executing a plan just because you’re healthy or young or even just too busy. Life tends to fly by and unfortunately none of us know what tomorrow looks like. This current time is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t procrastinate on protecting yourself, your family, and your assets. Take care of it now so that you and your family will have less stress when your need arises.
DIY Estate Plans
There are myriad sites that claim you can just fill out a short form and, boom! There’s your will! It may be an inexpensive solution, but is an online Power of Attorney or Revocable Trust adequate for your assets? Does your plan have all the strategies you may need to avoid complications such as tax-planning or portability election? A lot of things in this life you can do yourself, but your estate planning shouldn’t be one of them, especially if you have complicated assets or any doubts as to what you’re doing.
Mishandling Your Assets
Just because you have signed your Will or your Trust, it does not mean you’re done. Many people establish a trust but make the mistake of never funding it,unfortunately defeating the purpose of having a trust. Retitling your assets into the name of your trust is an essential task. Some things, like your tangible property, can be taken care of with a simple assignment. Bank accounts usually need to be retitled into the name of your trust. An attorney can provide you with appropriate steps that your bank will be familiar with. Real property such as your home is a little more complicated and requires a Deed. In Michigan, we often use a Ladybird Deed. It holds your home in your individual name or in the name of you and your spouse until your death(s), and then transfers it into your revocable trust.
At Galloway and Collens, we can help you establish or update your estate plan. In this time of social distancing and stay-at-home, we can still meet with you. We are meeting our clients by phone and video conferencing. We can prepare your plan and, under the Governor’s executive order allowing remote witnessing and remote notarization, sign your Last Will and Testament, Revocable Trust, Patient Advocate Designation and Durable Power of Attorney by way of a remote signing. We want to bring you peace of mind in these trying times.