Big mistakes you might be making in estate planning

Many people are diligent when thinking about what will happen to their assets and real estate after they are no longer with us. While it can be an indelicate topic, some of us are conscientious about doing estate planning that covers all the bases. Sometimes, we have more than we realize, including bank accounts, retirement plans from our jobs, brokerage annuities and college savings plans. All of these should have designated beneficiaries that are current, because if not, our money and things could go to the wrong people.

As time passes, our wishes change. Relationships come and go, we get married, divorced and even have falling-outs with friends and family. There are some common pitfalls it would be worthwhile to specifically outline in order to avoid headaches later.

First, it is beneficial to get advice on what your state of residence laws say regarding one’s spouses. In some states, the spouse automatically is the beneficiary; in others, assets sometimes go to the ex-spouse, which is not what you might want.

Job changes can also affect your pension plans. When you roll over your retirement funds, your beneficiary will no longer have access to them unless you name them on the new account. Perhaps our beneficiary passes before we do. Another caveat is that our financial institution may have changed ownership. In the merging of banks, brokerage firms and mutual funds groups, some institutions get rid of older accounts. This cleans house for them but is very bad for you.

It is advisable not to appoint a minor as a beneficiary, as this could get messy with appointing conservators until the minor comes of age. Another complication could be if your beneficiary becomes disabled, which could affect that person’s �countable resources’ from Social Security or other benefits. In both of these cases, the solution might be to form a trust. A financial planner can advise you on how to do this.

Lastly, think of February 14 as a time to review your beneficiaries and estate planning. You will have received your 1099, so you will be clear as to what your contact information and assets are at your financial institution. There is no better way to show your heirs that you will be giving them a precious gift in your memory for years to come.

Source:Forbes, “The Big Estate-Planning Goof You May Be Making” Harper Willis, Dec. 16, 2013