Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Top 10 Estate Planning Pitfalls

1.  Not Having an Estate Plan at All

If you do no estate planning at all, then the Intestacy Statute determines
what happens to your property at death.  Your property is more likely to be
stolen.  A guardianship proceeding will likely be needed if you are
incapacitated, and litigation will more likely result over your health care. If
you have children, a guardianship proceeding without your input will be
necessary, which could be more expensive, time consuming and damaging
to your children, than it needed to be.

2.  Not Having a Will
3.  Not Having a Power of Attorney for Finances
4.  Not Having a Power of Attorney for Healthcare 
5.  Not Having a Living Will (Advance Directive)
6.  Not Having a Revocable Living Trust
7.  Not Changing Beneficiary Designations

IRA, 401(k), Life Insurance, and many brokerage and other types of
accounts have beneficiary designations.  If the named beneficiary is living,
then these assets are Non-Probate Assets meaning the funds are distributed
directly from the custodian of the funds to the beneficiary without any
involvement from the Personal Representative or other Estate beneficiaries.
Name your spouse first, and the Trust second (Alternate or Contingent
Beneficiary).  If you don't have a Trust, then name all of your children as
contingent beneficiaries.

8.   Not Using a Transfer on Death Deed
A transfer on death deed makes your house a non-probate asset, which means it is not available to creditors of your estate.  It transfers your home directly to your beneficiaries in the most efficient and economical manner.  This can be important, especially if you have significant home equity and intend to keep your house for many years.  If you intend to sell soon or don't have equity, this may not benefit you.

9.   Not Using Will & Living Will Registries
10.  Not Using Personal Property Memorandum to Indicate Specific Wishes

Washington State allows you, in your own handwriting without a notary or witnesses, to sign and date a list of your personal property, who you want to receive it, and the date you made the decision.  Keep the document with your Will, Trust, and other important documents in a home safe or safe deposit box.  I recommend taking digital photos of the property as well, especially jewelry,art, or antiques, so that you will be prepared to make an insurance claim if necessary.  Identifying sentimental pieces of property and beneficiaries for each, helps avoid fights that can ensue after you pass away.


It is important to keep other information with this handwritten list, including, but not limited to:  burial or cremation wishes, funeral arrangements, care of pets, hidden valuables, usernames and passwords for all accounts, vehicle titles, real property deeds, insurance policies, beneficiary designations, retirement account information, brokerage and banking information, accountant and financial planner information, debt information, health care or genetic information, religious wishes, educational wishes for children, churches or charities you would like others to keep in mind for memorial gifts, recorded messages for children or loved ones, and anything else you think might be helpful either to help keep yourself organized or to make the process a little easier for the Personal Representative and beneficiaries.

 14205 SE 36th St Ste 100
Bellevue, WA 98006-1553
Phone: 425-649-1190
Fax: 425-223-3197


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