Using common sense can prevent estate planning mistakes

When creating an estate plan, it’s important to make sure that the wills and trusts are completely functional. Unfortunately, many New York residents drop the ball somewhere in this phase of the planning process. This can create problems for those handling the decedent’s estate. A common sense approach to these issues can avoid unnecessary delays and expenses.

Estate planners should start by making sure that all assets are accounted for and the executor of the estate will have access to them. For instance, real property may have been properly transferred to a trust, but if the deed is locked in a safety deposit box somewhere, instructions on accessing the box should be provided. Similarly, non-testamentary assets, such as life insurance policies or investment accounts with beneficiary designations, must be described and means of access provided. Often, this entails digital access through online sites requiring user names and passwords.

Other mistakes can occur if there is an inconsistency regarding beneficiaries. For example, a will may designate a certain beneficiary to receive the assets in a certain bank account, but there is another person named as the pay-on-death beneficiary on file with the bank. Another common error is failing to update the plan when an important life event occurs. This is especially important with second marriages and blended families.

A well-crafted estate plan could provide peace of mind for all concerned. An estate planning lawyer can explain the various documents, including a will, a trust, powers of attorney for finances and health care decisions.

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