Frazier & Deeter was recently recognized in an edition of “Estate Planning Experts” by Shane Smith, Esq. where the Head of the Tax Department, Terri Lawson, was asked to share her views on common mistakes she sees clients making when planning their estates. These were the three most common issues that Terri encounters while working with her clients:
1. Not having a will
The first and worst mistake you can make is not having a will. If you do not have a will, the state provides one for you. However, the state provided will could potentially distribute your property without regard to your family’s needs or your desires.
2. Not updating your will
Estate laws are always changing. People often think that once they have a will that they are done with the process, but new regulations can cause your will to be out-of-date. Also, families are always evolving: people get divorced, adopt children, children get married, children get divorced, etc. If you don’t keep your will updated to reflect changes in your family, your wishes may not be carried out.
3. Lack of communication with your advisors
Estate planning is an ongoing process that requires attention beyond simply finalizing a tax return. Tax advisors, attorneys and financial planners can work together to provide the knowledge and direction necessary to help you make the right moves with critical decisions like guardianships, trusts and charitable giving.
Estate planning involves considering implications from a variety of angles and your advisors are there to answer questions like:
• How is it going to affect your taxes?
• Who pays the tax from this income?
• Are you allowed to have access to the income?
It’s best to communicate as questions arise and changes are made, rather than once a year.
In order to avoid a mishap with your estate, be sure that you adhere to these three simple steps. By having a will, keeping it updated and communicating regularly with your financial advisors, you can make your estate planning comprehensive to make sure your wishes are carried out as smoothly as possible.
About the Author: Terri Lawson is an expert in estate planning with over 20 years of experience helping individuals and families plan for the future, address concerns and meet their estate planning goals.