Procrastination is one of the biggest mistakes people make about estate planning. They come up with excuses about why they haven’t made an estate plan yet, and they invest more time in defending those excuses than they do in protecting themselves and their families from an unpredictable future.
Another big mistake that people make when planning their estates is to forego professional help and employ a do-it-yourself approach. The prevalence of downloadable forms online can lull people into a false sense of security. They may think that they can just plug in their details to some generic form and then never have to worry about what happens if they die in the future.
There are numerous issues that can arise when you use a cut-and-paste or DIY approach to estate planning, including the three listed below.
You might do something that violates Washington state law
There are certain rules that govern probate proceedings and limit what a testator can do with their own assets after they die. For example, while your children don’t have a legal right to an inheritance, your spouse does. Trying to disinherit your spouse might lead to a challenge against your documents that results in the courts throwing them out and treating your estate as though you drafted no documents at all.
You may fail to protect yourself from taxes and debts
Both Washington state and the federal government access estate taxes on the assets left behind by people with millions of dollars worth of property to their names. The more valuable your estate is, the more your loved ones may have to pay in estate taxes after you die.
If you don’t have millions of dollars in property, you still need to think about what might happen to your assets after your death. Creditors, ranging from your credit card company to Medicaid, could make a claim against your assets, even your house. Creditors can consume everything in your estate unless you plan ahead to protect those assets from probate claims.
You might not adequately protect yourself
Even if you manage to draft a will that would stand up to scrutiny in the Washington probate courts, an estate plan isn’t just about leaving property to the next generation. It is also about your protection in the event of some kind of emergency.
Your estate plan shouldn’t just be a will. You should also think about what would happen in a medical emergency. Advance directives, powers of attorney and trust paperwork can all be important documents to include in a comprehensive estate plan.
Recognizing that you need help with a creation of an estate plan will help ensure that the documents you make will protect you and the people you love later.