The Most Common Estate Planning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Jul 9, 2024

Approx. Reading Time: 2 min. 

Multigenerational family
With estate planning, the ripple effects of our oversights often linger long after we’re gone, impacting the lives of those we leave behind. Here’s a closer look at the six most common estate planning mistakes and how you can avoid them. 

Common Estate Planning Mistakes

1. Not making a plan at all

The Mistake: The adage “failing to plan is planning to fail” rings especially true here. Without an estate plan, you risk leaving your heirs in a state of confusion, potentially leading to disputes and court battles. 

How to Avoid: Begin with the basics. Draft a will, designate beneficiaries, and ensure you have named an executor. Even a simple estate plan is better than none. 

2. Keeping silent about your plan

The Mistake: Not discussing your wishes with your beneficiaries often leads to confusion or misunderstandings after you’re gone.

How to Avoid: Transparency is key. Discuss your estate plan with your loved ones. Make sure your beneficiaries and executor understand your wishes and the reasons behind them. 

3. Overlooking your broader legacy

The Mistake: Many mistakenly believe estate planning is solely about distributing wealth.

How to Avoid: Think about intangibles. Maybe there’s a charity close to your heart you want to support or family heirlooms that carry emotional value. Ensure you account for these in your plan. 

4. Failing to list all assets

The Mistake: If you don’t list all your assets, some might get overlooked, leading to potential loss or disputes. 

How to Avoid: Keep a comprehensive, updated list of all your assets, both tangible (like property) and intangible (like stocks or bonds). Make it easily accessible to your executor. 

5. Ignoring online assets

The Mistake: In today’s digital age, overlooking online assets is a glaring oversight. From digital currencies to social media accounts, these assets can hold both monetary and sentimental value. 

How to Avoid: Catalog all your online accounts, from email to online banking, and ensure your executor has the means to access them, whether that’s through a list of passwords or digital estate planning tools. 

6. Thinking only of what happens after you're gone

The Mistake: Many believe estate planning only kicks into gear after death. However, what happens if you become incapacitated?

How to Avoid: Plan for scenarios where you might be alive but unable to make decisions. Tools like living wills, health care proxies, and durable powers of attorney can help ensure your wishes are honored even if you’re not in a position to voice them.  

Why You Should Avoid Common Estate Planning Mistakes

Estate planning is a dynamic process that demands foresight, attention to detail, and regular updates. By being aware of common pitfalls and working to avoid them, you can create an estate plan that truly reflects your wishes and offers peace of mind for both you and your loved ones. 

Remember, a little proactivity today can prevent a lot of heartaches tomorrow. 

If you’d like to learn more about estate planning mistakes to avoid, reach out to an advisor using the form below.   

Source: “The Most Common Estate Planning Mistakes and How To Avoid Them.” FMeX. 2023. 13238.pdf (fmexcontent.s3.amazonaws.com) 

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