You’ve probably heard that you need an estate plan. It’s true. Estate planning is important for every adult. But when it comes to estate plans, it’s not just a matter of whether you have one, yes or no. It’s also a matter of whether you have a good estate plan.
After someone dies, the estate will often have to go through a legal process known as probate. Probate can be a complicated and time-consuming matter – but when someone has a bad estate plan, disputes, legal battles and family feuds can make the situation exponentially worse.
Here are five types of bad estate plans that can lead to probate headaches.
Bad Estate Plan #1: The Outdated Plan
Not all bad estate plans start out that way. Your estate plan might have been very solid when it was created – but that was years ago. In the meantime, you’ve gotten married, divorced, and remarried. You’ve had kids, and you’ve embraced stepchildren into your family. You’ve purchased new property. And your estate plan doesn’t mention any of this.
A good estate plan is not a one-and-done deal. After major life changes, you need to update your plan.
Bad Estate Plan #2: The Secret Plan
Maybe you don’t like talking about your estate plan. It’s understandable – a lot of people dislike discussing money and death, and an estate plan involves both. It’s also a mistake. An estate plan that’s kept secret can end up being an estate plan that goes wrong.
There are a couple of ways a secret plan can backfire. In some cases, it might simply lead to confusion. If your heirs can’t find the documents they need, for example, they won’t know what your wishes were.
In other cases, bigger disputes may arise. Your family may have expected one thing, only to find out that you’d planned something completely different. Not all surprises are good, and some unhappy family members may try to find grounds to contest the will in court.
Bad Estate Plan #3: The Contradictory Plan
When you think of an estate plan, you probably think of the will. The will is an important document, but it’s not the only thing that goes into an estate plan. There are actually multiple documents – and they shouldn’t contradict each other.
For example, you might have beneficiary designations on both your will and your life insurance policy. But what if these designations contradict each other? Your wishes may not be carried out.
Another problem occurs when people have multiple wills. This appears to have been the case with Aretha Franklin. According to CNN, the singer had at least three handwritten wills.
Bad Estate Plan #4: The DIY Plan
Speaking on handwritten wills, that’s another problem. Estate planning is a complex legal field. There are many documents and state laws that must be followed, and it’s easy for the average person to overlook something.
As a result, DIY estate plans can lead to big problems. An attorney who specializes in estate planning can make sure that the estate plan is legally valid and complete. Most people will also need expert guidance with big decisions, such as whether there should be a revocable or irrevocable trust.
Bad Estate Plan #5: No Plan
The worst estate plan of all might be no plan.
Many people put off estate planning, but we never know what the next day will bring. A solid estate plan gives us at least a little control and ensures that our wishes are known.
Need an Estate Plan Intervention?
The team as Skinner Law is experienced in estate and probate law can help guide you through the process. Contact us to learn more.