Estate planning mistakes lead to costly delays and bad outcomes

Unfortunately, too many people in Minnesota procrastinate about estate planning. This sometimes means that people die without a will, or intestate. Without an executed will, state and local laws arbitrarily manage the distribution of assets. This process generally requires family members to incur court costs. Furthermore, some relatives may have to prove their relationships to the deceased so that the court can designate them as heirs.

Another common mistake involves the failure to develop plans for the event of temporary or continual incapacity. By assigning someone ahead of time to make health care or financial decisions, an estate holder prevents delays in the event of an emergency. Otherwise, family members must petition the court to determine who has power of attorney or guardianship.

The beneficiary designations on bank or brokerage accounts require attention as well. These designations could have priority over the terms of a will and thereby transfer funds to a survivor automatically. People should look for conflicts between account beneficiaries and their wills. Coordination between the two methods of naming beneficiaries will also reduce the chance of interfering with tax deferrals at the time of death. Marriage, divorce, death and birth could influence how people want to name beneficiaries. Any of these events call for the review or update of an estate plan.

A person concerned about the distribution of an estate could consult an attorney. After reviewing the client's finances, an attorney could research estate planning strategies for distributing assets to heirs. This service could help a client understand potential tax consequences. Goals, such as providing for an heir's education or maintaining privacy, could be achieved with trusts. An attorney could create trusts and recommend how to incorporate them into an overall estate plan.

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