Ten common mistakes in estate planning, P.2

In our previous post, we began looking at some of the most common mistakes and misconceptions about estate planning. Here we continue that discussion. Two common misconceptions, which are polar opposites, are that one needs a lawyer to draft all one's estate planning documents. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there can be the assumption that one doesn't need a lawyer at all. Between these extremes, there is a middle ground.

If one's family and financial situation is fairly simple, one can in fact draft some documents oneself at little or no cost. Likewise, for health care decisions, one can obtain a health care directive from a hospital or download a state-specific form. There are other options as well. Powers of attorney and simple wills can be drawn up on one's own as well. That said, a word of caution needs to be said about this approach. While it can save money, it also presents the risk of overlooking important estate planning opportunities or making a mistake.

Which leads into the opposite misconception: that one doesn't need a lawyer at all for estate planning. This is a real mistake, particularly for those who have more complex estate planning goals. Even for those who don't have complex estate planning goals, there may be a complicating issue that justifies obtaining professional legal advice. Many families nowadays have special concerns, so this advice may well apply to many families.

As we mentioned in our last post, one cannot expect to completely avoid probate with a will. Because of this, many people go with trust-based estate plans. However, one doesn't necessarily have to draft a trust. In our next post, we'll continue with this point.

Source: Forbes, "10 Common Estate Planning Myths That Can Be Detrimental to Your Family," Erik Carter, October 3, 2012

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