Kiwanis Club discovers estate planning pitfalls

Attorney Leigh Hilton outlining the most common mistakes of estate planning

Attorney Leigh Hilton outlining the most common mistakes of estate planning

Vicki Baker

While many of us like to think that we’re immortal, the old joke is that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. The days of “simple wills” and “easy probate” are long gone and have been replaced with complicated lives, finances and laws. But to simplify things a bit, Leigh Hilton, Denton attorney, addressed the most common estate planning pitfalls with the Kiwanis Club RR at its November 6 meeting.

The fundamental purpose of estate planning is not just about death and avoidance of resultant taxes, but how to leave a legacy for the living. It doesn’t matter how much money you made during your life, if you don’t plan for its purpose after you’re gone, chances are much of it will be lost in defense and dispute. Funny things happen when family and money collide without any written plans or instructions. So it’s vitally important your estate planning documents be prepared and periodically reviewed, about every three years, to ensure your desires coincide with your current life objectives.

Diligently preparing and updating end-of-life documents—will, durable power of attorney and advance directives—is crucial, but even the best laid plans can wobble. The most common estate planning mistakes people make are:

1. Failing to address health care decisions

2. Having no plan to control financial and property matters if you become incapacitated

3. Lacking a wealth transfer strategy—controlling the distribution of your assets through wills and trusts

4. Failing to understand and plan for death taxes

5. Thinking your children and minor adults do not need inheritance protection

6. Failing to transfer “value,” example, setting up a college education fund

7. Not preserving tax deferral benefits of retirement plans

8. Failing to organize and consolidate your assets

9. In a second marriage, failing to protect your spouse and children

10. Failing to plan for tangible personal property

11. Failing to plan for access to medical records per HIPAA guidelines

12. Believing estate planning is a one-time event

Now that you have the ammunition to get a start-jump on reviewing your overall financial and estate picture, the rest is up to you. While you’re sitting around the house watching your favorite television show or sports team, pull out a tablet or laptop and start making your plans. As Benjamin Franklin stated, “By failing to prepare, you are planning to fail.” Manage your financial affairs now while you still can.

Interested in other informative presentations? Then come join the Kiwanis Club RR on the first and third Fridays at 8:30 a.m. in the clubhouse or contact Barbara Leurig at [email protected].