Ten Serious Mistakes to Avoid in Estate Planning

1. Do-It-Yourself Wills & Trust. 

There will be problems when someone dies and their family comes to an attorney with a do-it-yourself will that the deceased person found on the Internet. Why? Because almost invariably, when someone does writes their own will, there are a myriad of mistakes and some lawyer will get paid lots of money to deal with the problems after the person dies. Everything from having to prove to a Court that the will was executed with the necessary formalities required by law for a will to be admitted to probate, to failing to take advantage of appropriate tax planning for a family, to having bequests go outright to minor children or to beneficiaries on governmental assistance. Sometimes, a lawyer can persuade a judge to “reform” a will to revise some of these mistakes (at significant cost to the Estate), and sometimes, through something called “qualified disclaimers” a lawyer can, in a crude and often inefficient manner, achieve some tax savings. But if the person did not execute the Will properly, the Will may not be admitted to probate at all. In that case, the person’s property will instead pass by what is known as “intestacy” (see #8, below). That means that the person’s property will instead pass to the persons that the law of the state where he or she lived says inherits the property. 

Do-It-Yourself Trusts have all of these potential problems, plus so many more that are unique to so-called “lifetime” trusts

(see #9).