The popularity of online services and guides offering DIY wills has left many people to believe that estate planning is a simple process. The reality is that vague wording, one-size-fits-all plans, and misconceptions about how assets should be handled can cause serious problems. Professional guidance is the best way to protect your estate and ensure your heirs are properly provided for.
Using Vague Wording
An estate plan must be clearly written to reflect your true intentions. For example, what does it mean if you state you want "your descendants" to share your assets? If you have a son and a daughter and your daughter has three children while your son remains childless, do you want each of these individuals to get an equal share or do you want your estate split between your son and daughter? The phrase "surviving children" can be similarly problematic, since it raises the possibility of your grandchildren being disinherited if one of your children passes away before you.
Relying on a One-Size-Fits-All Plan
All families are not created equally. If you have a disabled son who relies on means-tested government benefits or a daughter who has been struggling with drug addiction and can't currently be trusted to manage an inheritance wisely, you need to consult a professional to figure out how to best plan for the needs of your heirs. Blended families, whether through adoption or remarriage, also face special estate planning challenges that require professional guidance.
Not Understanding What Assets Pass Outside a Will
It's a common miscommunication that your will controls how all your assets are distributed. Assets such as retirement plan accounts or life insurance pass outside wills and rely on beneficiary designations. This is an important point to remember if you ever wish to update your will due to divorce, remarriage, or other changes in your family structure. Updating your will without changing beneficiary designations could result in assets being left to someone you did not wish to provide an inheritance.
If you have questions about how to best manage your estate planning needs, contact Colin Smith Law today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.