Anticipating and avoiding potential pitfalls with your estate plan

Have you thought through all the potential pitfalls about your future plans? Consider these scenarios while you review your estate plan.

Good for you if you already have an estate plan. People of all ages and from all walks of life understand some of the vital aspects of establishing an estate plan, such as:

  • Identifying a trusted person who will wrap up their affairs once they are gone
  • Choosing guardians for their minor children
  • Designating who will receive what is left of their assets once all of the bills are paid

Unfortunately, life - and the aftermath of a death - doesn't always turn out as expected. Circumstances change and unanticipated events or federal and state law changes can alter the outcome of your carefully crafted estate plan. This is why it is important to review your plan on a periodic basis with an experienced attorney.

Potential pitfalls you should consider now

Failing to consider or plan for certain "what if" situations can lead to confusion, frustration and even lawsuits between family members. No matter how unlikely the scenario, discuss the following with your lawyer now, before it is too late:

  • Remarriage: Blended families, divorces and remarriages can lead to uneven distributions of your estate after your death. According to a recent article in the Bradenton Herald, more than 60 percent of widowers remarry or have a significant other within about two years of their wives' deaths. While you may not be concerned about a gold digger snatching your inheritance, a remarriage at any age may unintentionally divert assets to stepchildren or a new spouse, leaving other family members out in the cold.
  • Inheritance expectations: Today's grown children should no longer count on receiving inheritances after their parents pass. Healthy living and early retirement can deplete a loved one's life savings far sooner than anticipated. Many baby boomers find that they are now paying for their parents' support.
  • Disability, incapacity or long-term illness: Wills and many trust provisions only come into play after death. Do you know what will occur if you become incapacitated or suffer from a long-term illness that affects your ability to make your own decisions? A power of attorney or planning for a guardianship can provide you with peace of mind about an uncertain future.
  • Retirement accounts and insurance proceeds: Don't forget to update your designated beneficiary after a primary beneficiary's death, a divorce or remarriage. Similarly, failure to name a contingent beneficiary on various accounts can delay payments to those you most care for.

All of these potential pitfalls - and numerous others - can leave unanswered questions and hurt feelings for those left behind. If it is already too late to avoid a dispute and you find yourself embroiled in a family feud or litigation regarding an estate or probate issue, consult an experienced trial attorney. An estate and probate lawyer can also help you set up a plan if you do not already have one.