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Top 10 Mistakes - Estate Planning Blunders

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, here are the TOP 10 estate planning blunders I've seen over the years. Do your best to avoid them!

Mistake #1: Doing nothing because you think planning for death means you’ll die sooner.

Truth/Solution: Everyone dies, but some have peace of mind and make things much easier for their families by doing a little planning.

Mistake #2: Believing a Last Will and Testament will allow your family to avoid probate.

Truth/Solution: Having a Last Will and Testament does not avoid the significant time and expense of probate; the best solution is typically a revocable trust.

Mistake #3: Forgetting to name beneficiaries for bank accounts.

Problem/Solution: If pay on death (POD) beneficiaries aren't named for bank accounts and the accounts aren't jointly owned with a survivor, they must be probates; don't neglect to name POD beneficiaries.

Mistake #4: Forgetting or failing to name contingent beneficiaries for investment accounts and/or life insurance policies.

Problem/Solution: If your primary beneficiary dies before you do, your accounts must be probated; make sure to name backup beneficiaries.

Mistake #5: Creating a living trust but neglecting to put assets into it.

Problem/Solution: Assets not owned by (held in) your trust must be probated, unless you're able to name beneficiaries for them; make sure you’re trust is properly funded.

Mistake #6: Making children joint owners of a home, trying to avoid probate.

Problem/Solution: Among other things, you lose control of your home; the same result can be achieved in other ways (e.g., living trust, enhanced life estate deed).

Mistake #7: Using an online document assembly program to create estate planning documents.

Problem/Solution: You won’t know you’ve made a mistake until it’s too late; proper planning using an experienced estate attorney will help you achieve the results you want and need.

Mistake #8: Failing to assign/transfer business interests to a revocable trust.

Problem/Solution: Business ownership must be probated, which can be very “messy,” particularly if you have business partners; you business ownership interests should be transferred to a living trust.

Mistake #9: Leaving assets directly to minor, disabled, or spendthrift children.

Problem/Solution: Your kids will get a “pot of money” at the age of 18 (not usually a good idea), your disabled kids will be disqualified from receiving government benefits, and your financially irresponsible kid will blow his inheritance.

Mistake #10: Failing to coordinate investment account beneficiary designations with a will or trust.

Problem/Solution: The terms of your will or trust won’t control the disposition of these assets if you've named an individual beneficiary, frustrating your intended plans; make sure to name your trust or testamentary trust in your will as beneficiary.

If we can help you avoid any of these mistakes, contact us at (813) 244-7758 or And remember, if competent, caring, estate planning help us a must, then Ross Spano Law is the friend you can trust.


Ross Spano

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