A crumpled paper symbolizing a poorly executed estate plan, with a broken pen and mismatched puzzle pieces beside it, representing miscommunication and incomplete planning, against a plain white background.

Key Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid: Insights from an Expert

In the article provided, Attorney Christine M. Tenore from the Fairfield-based law firm Eliovson & Tenore emphasizes the dynamic nature of estate planning and outlines common mistakes to avoid.

  • Regular Review of Estate Plans: Tenore underscores the importance of reviewing your estate plan, including your Last Will and Testament, every three to five years. This ensures that the plan aligns with any changes in your medical, financial, or family situation.

  • Contingent Beneficiaries: Neglecting to name contingent beneficiaries can lead to complications, especially if the primary beneficiary predeceases you or if a named institution, like a charity, no longer exists.

  • Understanding Asset Distribution: Your Will only directs the distribution of assets solely in your name. Assets held jointly or those with designated beneficiaries, such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies, pass directly to the co-owner or named beneficiary, not through the Will.

  • Successor Beneficiaries and Executors: Naming successor beneficiaries and executors is crucial in case the initially designated individuals are unable to fulfill their roles.

  • Powers for Executors: Without statutory powers included in the Will for the executor’s authority, the executor may need to seek court permission for significant actions, like selling your house.

  • Digital Assets: Modern estate plans should also include directions for digital assets, such as online accounts and social media.

  • Trusts for Minor Beneficiaries: To protect minors, trusts can be included in your Will, with provisions to extend distribution beyond the age of 18.

  • Avoiding Complicated Distribution Schemes in a Basic Will: Complex
    distribution plans are better suited for a Will combined with a trust, as trusts are subject to court jurisdiction and require annual financial reporting.

Tenore's article highlights that careful planning and regular updates are key to ensuring your estate plan accurately reflects your wishes and avoids unintended consequences upon your passing.

For more detailed insights and guidance on estate planning, you can read the full article here.

My Comments and Feedback

This article serves as an important reminder that estate planning is not a one-time task but an ongoing process that needs to be revisited regularly. The emphasis on including contingent beneficiaries, considering all types of assets, and the potential need for trusts reflects the complexities of modern estate planning. Additionally, the mention of digital assets is particularly relevant in today's digital age. By highlighting common mistakes and providing solutions, the article offers valuable advice to individuals looking to ensure that their estate plan remains effective and true to their intentions.

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