Everyone over age 18 should have in place basic estate planning documents like a Will, a Durable Power of Attorney, and advance medical directives providing instructions in the event of a medical emergency.
These documents are especially critical if you have minor children or others who depend on you financially.
Of course, some people with more complex situations may benefit from additional estate planning techniques that go far beyond the basics.
Yet, a reported two-thirds of Americans lack even a simple Will, meaning the state may have the final say on how to distribute their money and raise their minor children after their death.
That’s why we take time during our annual client “checkup” to review your estate planning arrangements, including beneficiary designations, to ensure they are up to date and clearly express your wishes.
If you are guilty of some of the most common estate planning mistakes, you’re not alone.
Several famous celebrities and their families have discovered the hard way what not to do, and have ended up on the “hall of shame” of estate planning disasters.
So if you’ve been putting off getting your estate in order, make sure to call your attorney and put that planning appointment on the calendar today.
Entertainer and former California Congressman Sonny Bono died in a skiing accident at age 62 with no Will in place, leading to a complex and lengthy legal battle involving former wife Cher, an alleged illegitimate child, and valuable music rights.
Tip: Get your basic planning in place. You can always change or perfect it later.
Don’t do it yourself.
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice and attorney Warren Burger prepared his own estate planning documents. But he wasn’t an estate planning expert, and omitted provisions that could have saved his family thousands of dollars in estate taxes and kept his estate out of the public eye.
Tip: Specialized estate planning help need not cost more, but can save you thousands in costly errors.
Update your documents.
Actor Heath Ledger had a Will, but never updated it after the birth of his daughter. When he died unexpectedly at age 28, his Will left all his assets to his father and sisters, seemingly disinheriting his daughter Matilda Rose and causing ugly stories about family divisions to surface in the press.
Tip: Contact your attorney and update documents upon major life events like marriage, divorce, death or the birth of a child.