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The biggest mistake in estate planning is not having one

With something as complicated as an estate plan, there are bound to be common mistakes that professionals warn against making. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to regularly see articles with titles like “the biggest estate planning mistakes to avoid” or “the top 10 things not to do when making an estate plan.”

A recent article in Forbes follows this template (although they list only seven mistakes). But if you take a closer look at articles of this type, several common mistakes all stem from the same fundamental mistake: Failing to have an estate plan. Many Americans do not have an estate plan in place, either because they have been putting it off or because they assume they don’t need one. In either case, this is a problem.

Contrary to popular belief, estate planning is not just for the wealthy. Nor is it just for people who have “complex” finances or assets. First of all, estate planning is about more than just assets. It includes provisions for end-of-life medical care and other important decisions. Secondly, each of us has a more complex financial situation than we likely realize. And if you are counting on your family to just “sort it all out” after you’re gone, you could be setting the stage for a messy and acrimonious family feud.

Finally, it is a mistake to assume that you can put off estate planning. In reality, none of us knows for sure how much time we have left on this earth. And while contemplating your own mortality is not necessarily easy or enjoyable, it is better than contemplating what could happen to your loved ones if they were unable to inherit your assets as you intended.

The Forbes article contained additional advice on estate planning mistakes to avoid, and you can read those by following the link below. But suffice it to say, having an estate plan in place right away – even if it is imperfect – is perhaps the best protection you can give yourself and your family. If you’re ready to get started, please contact an experienced estate planning attorney in your area.

Source: Forbes, “7 Common Estate-Planning Blunders Not To Make,” Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sept. 15, 2014

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