Mistakes to Avoid in Your Estate Plan

Our St George estate planning attorneys have many years of experience with all kinds of cases. We’ve helped our clients with their wills, estate taxes, beneficiaries, and the probate process. Through the years, we’ve seen clients make decisions that seem harmless at first but have devastating consequences. That’s why we’ve come up with a checklist for estate planning that ensures your final wishes are carried out the way you want.

With the help of our skilled St George estate planning attorneys at Boyack Christiansen Legal Solutions, we’ll help you with drafting well-crafted estate planning documents and advise you to prevent these mistakes from harming you or your heirs during the estate administration.

#1 Joint Tenancy

This is a form of ownership where two or more people own the same property. You may be tempted to name your child as a joint owner of your house so that when you die, they can get it immediately. You may be thinking you can avoid the costs of an estate plan or avoid probate after death.

There are many self-help options available for estate planning. Utah provides the following resources for life planning and probate. However, deciding on this without an attorney is a big no-no. 

While this may seem like a good idea at first, it can backfire on you if your child finds themselves in huge financial trouble. If they own a part of your property and  become forced to pay off their debts, then you may find yourself selling your home because of the mistakes of your child. 

This is one of the more common mistakes that our clients make. There may be plenty of other tactics that can cost you tremendously in the long run. It’s best to discuss your estate planning options with our experienced St George estate planning attorneys. Call us now to schedule a consultation!

Example

This is exactly what happened to our client:

One day our client found a Notice of Sheriff’s Sale of your home that had been posted by the attorney of a former son-in-law. In their daughters’ divorce, her ex-husband has been awarded a judgment against her for unpaid debt and child support. 

Some time ago, they heard that if they listed your child as a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship on their home when they passed away, they would inherit your home automatically. As good loving parents, they wanted to make sure that their daughter kept the family home. Therefore, she followed this advice, and she now owns 1/3 of your home. 

It was a good idea. It was frugal. But now they find themselves with approximately 30 days to either sell the home or obtain the means to pay off this judgment from unpaid child support.

They lost the potential sale value of their home in excess of $30,000 and they had to pay a $15,000 judgment on behalf of their daughter. They were forced to move from their home of more than forty years in their mid-70s, under a thirty-day time crunch. It’s gut-wrenching seeing this happen to good people.

This is one of the main objectives in writing this. We hope to gain a wide audience in an effort to encourage more people to tend to their estate planning and avoid this very circumstance. If you’re reading this now and you’re concerned about whether you’ve been making any mistakes, call our law firm now to schedule an appointment with our trusted St George estate planning attorney. 

#2 Failure to Review and Update

Once you have an estate plan in place it is essential that you sit down with your attorney at least annually to review it and keep it current. It is also critical to meet with your attorney after a major life event that may affect your plan. 

Life consists of constant change. If you fail to update your estate planning attorney, your heirs can find themselves getting only a tiny portion of their inheritance because of the expenses borne from the changes in your life. 

When you write a will or a trust with our competent St George estate planning attorneys, make sure to update us regularly to avoid these kinds of problems.  

Example

Two sisters who had never married lived together, worked together and shared a home. They had both established trusts wherein upon the death of the first sister the remaining part of that sister’s interest in the home would pass to the other sister. However, after the first sister passed away the second sister failed to follow-up with the attorney to have her estate plan updated.

Because she had not been diligent in updating her estate it was necessary for us to identify, track down, and give proper legal notice to fifty-six people; many of whom were second cousins who she had never met or had not seen in several decades.

All of this happened in the days before Google and Facebook. The search was difficult. It required the retention of private investigators and other means to track these people down. After all of this, when the home was sold, each beneficiary received a check for their equal share of the estate — less than $100 worth of inheritance.

Maybe the surviving sister was just busy with life and hadn’t taken the time or felt the need to review her estate plan with her attorney. It may have been that she was hesitant to pay the couple hundred dollars to have her attorney review her estate plan with her attorney. Or, she may have mistakenly believed that the planning was already done. Needless to say, a small fortune was spent after she had passed to give a pittance to her remaining fifty-six heirs.

#3 Treating your Estate Plan Like a Top Secret

Privacy is important. It’s understandable that you want to keep your estate plan hidden from your family members for your own peace of mind. This can come with dire consequences.

Example

There was a deceased man who was very careful and most likely has a last will and testament or some other plan in place. However, that estate plan is likely in one of several safes in his home. He and he alone had the combinations.

We are initially proceeding under intestacy (without a will) and may find that we need to make an amendment to the probate if we discover a plan once we get the legal authority to open the safes.

Give your family a copy of your estate plan. Give them copies of any amendments and updates. Make sure they know where the originals are kept and have access to them!

No matter how well your estate attorney drafts your estate plan, it’s useless if your beneficiaries have no way to access it. If you find yourself in a similar situation, give us a call and we’ll be sure to help you out!

#4 Failure to Fund

One last common mistake when creating an estate plan is a failure to fund the trust. A trust is useless unless it is funded! At the very least you need to move your real property and bank accounts to the trust. Almost every defect of a trust can be fixed except the lack of properly funding the trust.

Formerly, we entrusted some clients to do this on their own. Now we at a minimum record the deed to their home for them. 

If you’re unsure how to go about funding your estate plan, get in touch with our knowledgeable St George estate planning attorneys. We can discuss what steps you need to take to ensure that your assets are properly transferred into the trust

Hire our Experienced St George Estate Planning Attorneys Today!

Time and again, there are people who take actions that harm their estate. We’ve seen this happen to even the kindest of hearts and warmest of souls. If you don’t take your estate planning seriously, you may end up losing more than you save on estate tax benefits.

Our experienced estate planning lawyers at Boyack Christiansen Legal Solutions can help prevent these mistakes. If you find yourself having trouble with your estate plan, give our St George estate planning law office a ring.

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