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The most costly estate planning errors that can be avoided

Most estate planning errors can be avoided if you're willing and able to put in the time and energy in advance. Make sure you know the legal steps that need to be taken and the tactics you can use to eliminate mistakes, ensuring that everything really happens the way you want it to happen. Below are a few of the biggest mistakes:

1. Assuming your age means you don't need a plan. Many people think they don't need one until they are retired, but younger people need them as well, considering how many unexpected deaths happen before retirement age.

2. Forgetting that beneficiaries may trump a will. A will isn't the last word if you already named someone else as a beneficiary, so it's important to update all paperwork if your situation changes. For instance, you may get divorced and change your will, forgetting that your life insurance is still set up to go to your ex.

3. Giving the assets to people who will waste them. This is often an issue if your estate plan leaves a significant amount of money to children who are relatively young. Many people get around this by creating trusts that dictate how money can be used or when it will be paid out. If an heir is just 15, for instance, money could be kept in the trust until he or she is an adult.

4. Making plans that are too complicated. A lot of this process is complicated, which is why legal assistance can be so helpful, but overthinking the estate plan can just result in a plan that makes no one happy. It's often best to keep it simple in New York.

Source: Consumer Reports, "6 costly estate-planning minefields, and how to avoid them," accessed Dec. 21, 2015

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