By Delta Jones-Walker, Gary Crusader
Summer is here, and many of us are taking vacations, enjoying some down time with family or indulging in our favorite outdoor pastimes. But let us not forget that summer is also a great time to pull out your financial documents and make sure that all things are in order with your estate. Like other personal documents such as your driver’s license or passport, your estate planning files need to be periodically renewed.
While we may be at different stages of planning our estates, there are a few common mistakes I’ve noticed that are often made during the process. Check these out:
- Not having a plan
The worse thing you can do is to not have an estate plan in place prior to your demise. For example, not having a will means that at the time of your death, the distribution of your assets will be dictated by the inheritance laws of the state where you resided. These “intestacy laws” vary from state to state but, typically leave percentages of your assets to various family members. There is always a remote chance that these laws will accomplish what you would have intended – but not likely.
- Planning your estate online or doing it yourself
There has been a noticeable uptick in the number of people who look to the internet to prepare their own wills and trusts. Dozens of websites profess to offer you just the right estate planning documents at discounted rates. Even wealthy clients who stand to benefit the most from expert planning advice have been impacted. Unfortunately, relying on web-based, do it yourself solutions is a recipe for disaster. Estate planning documents should represent the culmination of a well-thought out financial and estate plan. Internet sites can provide you with documents, but no actual advice that fits you in the context of your specific financial and personal life. Sit with a financial advisor to ensure your estate plan is customized to your wishes.
- Failure to Review Beneficiary Designations and Titling of Assets
One of the most basic and overlooked items on every estate-planning checklist is the review of beneficiary designations and the proper titling of accounts. Unknowingly, many people will often let beneficiary designations and asset titling determine their estate plans for them, contrary to their intentions. Most investment accounts allow for the designation of a beneficiary (IRAs, 401Ks, company plans, etc.). All of these beneficiary designations absolutely control who gets the asset at your death. If you don’t periodically check and make necessary adjustments as to who your beneficiaries are, assets can flow to the wrong people due to out-of-date designations, often with unintended estate and income tax implications.
There are several other common mistakes that are often made when estate planning. I will touch on those in my next column. In the meantime, if you haven’t done so already, reach out to a financial advisor and start the discussion of your estate plan. Putting off something this important could mean the reduction or even elimination of the financial legacy meant for your descendants for years to come.
Connect with Delta Jones-Walker and Atled Financial on Facebook, Twitter: @Atled_Financial and LinkedIn! To schedule a complimentary consultation or a presentation to your group or organization, call 219-513-3710 or email [email protected] and mention this column. Topic ideas for this column are welcome!
*Securities and advisory services offered through Woodbury Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Insurance services offered through Atled Financial Group 717 B Main Street Schererville, IN 46375 which is not affiliated with Woodbury Financial.