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Did you know that 64 percent of Americans do not have a basic will? Estate planning is a large part of what I do as an attorney, and unfortunately there are quite a few misconceptions and mistakes that people make as their approach their own estate planning. Here is a look at some of the most common mistakes that people make in estate planning.

Underestimating the need for estate planning

As we discussed in this blog post, estate planning is not only for the rich or for those with complex finances. It is for any individual who wants to ensure that their wishes concerning their assets are carried out upon their death. In addition, proper estate planning can help ease the probate process for your family, create a plan for minor children, and designate someone who will act on your behalf should you become incapacitated in your lifetime.

Putting off estate planning for too long

Another common mistake that individuals and families make is putting off their estate planning for far too long. The important thing to remember about estate planning, however, is that you can always start with a basic plan in place and then nurture than plan as you and your finances mature. Rather than taking on the “better late than never” mindset with your estate planning, make it a goal to get your estate planning started early on so that you and your family can enjoy the peace of mind that estate planning offers.

Not putting enough thought into choosing a trustee

Naming a trustee who will be in charge of your affairs after your death is no easy decision, and therefore it is important for you to take the time and thought necessary to name the right trustee for your needs. When choosing a trustee, you must select the person who will be the most fit for the task. Resist the urge to simply choose your oldest child or an old friend because it seems logical at the start. Your attorney can help advise you as to who might be most fit to serve as your trustee.

Neglecting digital assets

The world is growing more and more digital by the minute, and therefore it makes sense that estate planning would grow to encompass more and more digital assets. Who is going to manage your social media accounts after you are gone? What about digital purchases and digital copies of important documents stored on your computer? Be sure to assign a specific authority to manage those assets after you are gone.

Neglecting pets

Pet trusts exist for a reason. They ensure that your pet will be taken care of and that your wishes regarding their care will be carried out after you are gone. Without taking the measures necessary to include your pet in your estate planning, your pet could easily end up in a shelter.