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Wealth management is more than just investment advice – it includes all aspects of a client’s financial life.

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10 Mistakes You May Be Making

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  • 10 Mistakes You May Be Making

A close up of a left hand holding a pen next to a calculator and printed charts and graphs.

Now that the markets and economy has stabilized and estate sizes may have changed, as well as the fact that the estate tax laws may change significantly over the next 2 years it is time to revisit our estate plans. Following are the top 10 errors I see people making with their estate plans. If we are making one of these errors, now is the perfect time to make the proper changes.

Top 10 mistakes people make with their estate planning:

1. Not having a current will or trust
There really isn’t a need to add an explanation on this one. We all know we should have a will or trust in place, but like a financial plan, doing it can be seen as a pain or nuisance. Based on my experience, let me just state that it is much more of a pain and nuisance for your loved ones that have to deal with your estate when there is no will or trust.
2. Choosing wrong Guardian
Choosing a guardian in many cases can be the most difficult part of preparing estate plan. There are many variables that come into play when deciding this very important decision. However, in many cases the ability of the guardian to manage money for the children is not considered.In cases where this maybe the case, consider using a corporate trustee over the funds to ensure proper money management.
3. Not naming back up trustees
We have seen this issue many times and the cost and inconvenience can be significant. Trustees can back out or refuse to take the trust for many reasons.
4. Not funding trusts
Why have a trust if it isn’t funded.The entire estate settling process may be twice as hard and costly if there is a trust not funded correctly. There is usually a “pore over” section of a trust to include limited assets not necessarily specified in the trust. However, people should not rely on that to account for all assets.
5. Not coordinating beneficiary designations
Most estates include non IRA accounts, IRA accounts, Insurance, and other assets (real estate). In many cases people have different beneficiaries on IRA and Insurance investments than what is desired in their trust or will. Beneficiary designations on IRAs and Insurance take priority over those stated in a will or trust.
6. Not taking advantage of gifting exemptions and/or gifting wrong assets
Gifting tax laws are currently advantageous for high net worth individuals. Understanding these tax laws may save significant tax dollars. Gifting should be reviewed to understand if it best fits your objectives.
7. Not reviewing plans at least every 3 years
Life changes: not reviewing the estate plan leads to errors that may lead to significant tax savings being lost or assets ending up with the wrong beneficiaries.
8. Naming children as beneficiaries
Children as beneficiaries can lead to major problems. The courts will normally require that a court supervised and costly conservatorship be created to control the money while the child is a minor, which will have the effect of depleting the proceeds.
9. Not understanding IRA/Pension Rules

There are so many tax laws that impact estates in respect to IRAs and pensions (too many to explain in this newsletter). Very few of these are understood by the average investor.It is imperative that you understand how each and every one of these may impact your estate. The cost to not knowing the tax laws may cost you or your loved ones thousands of dollars.

10. Having too complicated of an estate plan
The K-I-S-S theory (keep it simple) is best used in the average estate plan. Based on my experience, I have seen trusts so complicated that they do more harm than good. In fact, the people making the most money are the lawyers trying to decipher the mess. Not only did lawyers make thousand putting the complicated plan together, their services are required just for the beneficiaries to understand how it is suppose to work. As is the case in most cases, a second opinion is wise. If the first estate planning attorney tries to sell you a very complicated and costly trust, please get a second opinion. Or give me a call and we can discuss the advantages and disadvantage.

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