While the current health guidelines and stay-at-home policies have created more time to work on family projects, you should be aware of some common mistakes that people make if they’re in a rush to complete the estate planning process.
Coronavirus and Estate Planning: Top Mistakes to Avoid
The coronavirus has made many Georgians aware that when it comes to their health and safety, being prepared is essential. This is also true for estate planning. When you have the appropriate documents in place, you can have peace of mind knowing that you, your family, and your assets are going to be protected. While the current health guidelines and stay-at-home policies have created more time to work on family projects, you should be aware of some common mistakes that people make if they’re in a rush to complete the estate planning process.
#1 Letting Stress and Emotions Drive the Estate Planning Process
The pandemic and its related health guidelines have undoubtedly created some stressful and emotionally-heightened situations. But don’t let those emotions drive your estate planning process. If you try to rush together a plan, while you’re already anxious and distracted, there is a good chance that your paperwork will be missing some critical details. It might not even meet all the legal requirements. Instead, focus on your primary goals: protecting yourself and your loved ones. You want to make sure that you understand exactly how your estate will be distributed and that this matches your desires and family structure. Be sure that you have the bases covered with an appropriate Will, Power of Attorney, and an Advance Directive for Health Care.
#2 Not Working with an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
While Do-It-Yourself projects have become popular during the quarantine, it may not be a good way to tackle your estate planning. Proper estate planning is much more than printing forms from the internet or handwriting a document. It is knowing how to draft and execute the proper documents to legally ensure your wishes are carried out. If someone does not draft their estate planning documents correctly – if they unknowingly miss a component or a signature – it can change the entire effect of the document, or worse, render it invalid. For example, if a will is not properly executed (in writing, signed, and witnessed) the document is not legally valid. Fixing a DIY will cost you court fees, penalties, and lost time.
Hiring an attorney at the start of your estate planning process can help avoid expensive mistakes and legal disputes in the future. It can also provide peace of mind knowing that your estate plan is correctly drafted, the documents reflect your wishes and that your friends and loved ones are protected. While current health guidelines discourage in-person meetings, virtual conferences are a great way to get started. The governor has also issued a (temporary) executive order authorizing remote notarizations and signings.
#3 Assuming Your Existing Estate Documents Are Sufficient
An estate plan is a collection of living documents; as your family changes, your estate plan should change as well. It is a good idea (during a health crisis or otherwise) to review your estate plan every few years, and especially after significant events such as births, deaths, marriages, or divorces within your family. You want to make sure that your estate plan aligns with your current financial goals, that it protects your loved ones, and that it leaves your current assets to your specified beneficiaries. Additionally, you should also regularly check your retirement plans and insurance policies to make sure the beneficiary designations are still correct.
Working with an experienced estate planning attorney will help ensure that all of your estate documents are updated and adhere to current Georgia legal standards. (Tip: once you’ve completed and updated your estate plan, be sure to let your family know where the documents are being safely stored.)
Have additional questions? Contact estate planning and probate attorney Sarah Siedentopf
These times of uncertainty have motivated many individuals to work on their estate plans. While it is important to have a plan in place that will protect you and your family, it is also essential that those documents be comprehensive and accurate. Putting your plan together in a rush can lead to costly mistakes. If you have additional questions about estate planning or updating your current documents, please contact Siedentopf Law at (404) 736-6066 or via our website.
© Sarah Siedentopf and Siedentopf Law, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Siedentopf Law and EstateLawAtlanta.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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