In the world of estate attorneys, doing things by the books is considered one of the greatest virtues. Clients sometimes do things that leave estate lawyers exasperated, but you can learn from these mistakes. Let's look at four things you'll want to avoid when dealing with your estate.
Not Using All of the Available Tools
Understandably, many folks picture estate law as mostly involving wills. There are plenty more tools available, though, and you should consider whether they might be right for your needs. For example, transferring assets through a trust might be a more efficient way to get them to beneficiaries than using a will. Similarly, giving the money in a bank account to someone may involve nothing more complex than signing a payable-upon-death benefit telling the bank who gets the money.
Failing to Update Information About Beneficiaries
Naming the beneficiaries of an estate is one thing, but estate attorneys will you that folks move on quickly. It's a good idea to keep in touch with beneficiaries and update their information at least once a year, especially if you're likely to have a large estate. If it feels a little crass to discuss this in terms of estate law, just use the holiday mailing list as an excuse. Not only will you get their information, but you can also send them a nice card. Don't be afraid to take advantage of modern solutions, such as social media and email, to do updates, too.
Once you have all the information updated, transmit this information to your lawyer. They can then modify the notes in their files on your estate to reflect the changes.
The administration of an estate is just as important as the documents that establish it. You should name an executor, but there should be at least one successor named, too. Verify that both the executor and the successor are willing and able to handle these duties. Just like with the beneficiaries, it's also a good idea to update these parties' contact information annually.
Failing to Properly Fund the Estate
When someone dies, it's extremely rare that a bunch of assets just get transferred to their estate's beneficiaries. The executor will have to pay off outstanding taxes and debts. Similarly, there will likely be administration costs, including everything from paperwork to travel involved with tracking folks down and working with the probate court to wrap things up. Provide more funding than necessary, and then authorize the executor to distribute any unspent funds.