As we go through life, few of us plan to leave a mess to our heirs after we are gone. However, many of us, in fact, do leave behind a tangled mess, indeed.
Here are a few typical messes and how to avoid them:
Lifetime Transactions Without Legal Advice
Problem: Often, people enter into lifetime transactions which they think will simplify things after their death. However, all too often, these complicate matters more than anyone could have imagined. For example, sometimes people add a loved one to the title of their home or other real estate in order to avoid probate, thinking that loved one will take care of the desired property distributions. Later, perhaps they are taken off the title and someone else is added. Each of these transactions is a taxable gift in most states, and would use a portion of your lifetime $1 million gifting exclusion or even generate a current gift tax. Further, the loved one may not take care of the desired property distributions and litigation may ensue. This may simply be because of differing recollections of what was intended.
Solution: Check with your estate planning attorney prior to any significant lifetime transaction, such as changing title to property, a beneficiary designation, or other legal documents.
Failure to Plan
Problem: Often, people procrastinate in estate planning, as in so many other things. The old adage that if you fail to plan, you may as well plan to fail, is true in estate planning, as in others. This leads to last minute, rushed planning when you are distracted by stressful events in your life. Many problems require significant study and time to solve. For example, a family business, farm, extensive real estate holdings, and other forms of significant assets require extra planning time.
Solution: Do not wait until you are sick or you are about to board your flight for Kuala Lumpur. Make an appointment with an estate planning attorney today. After your planning is done, you will rest at ease knowing that your loved ones are cared for.
Failure to Communicate
Problem: Even if people plan, oftentimes they fail to communicate those plans to loved ones. This lack of communication, even in the closest of families, can give rise to doubts and suspicions. These suspicions are compounded when an unequal disposition is involved. While problems may not arise until after your death, do you really want to saddle your family with the emotional and, potentially, legal conflicts which are likely to arise?
Solution: As Paul Newman’s character in the film Cool Hand Luke said, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” Open communication about your plans and their implementation goes a long way to accomplish your goals.
By seeking competent legal advice, planning, and communicating those plans you can avoid the problems that so often wreak havoc on families, their emotions, and their inheritances. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you every step of the way so that you can be sure that your plans are carried out after you are gone.
Compliments of the McGee Law Firm, Attorney Brandon McGee
Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys