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The most common estate planning mistakes

The recent death of pop-star Prince revealed that the musician and renowned philanthropist passed away without creating a will. Court papers filed by the musician's sister revealed the absence of a will shortly after his death. It is surprising that such a successful person could have left this world without completing his estate plan, but committing this and three other common estate planning errors happens more frequently than one might think.

First, although most of us would prefer to control who receives what following our death, a surprising two-thirds of American adults have not completed a will. In the case of Amy Winehouse, who died at the age of 27 without a will, no one knew if she wanted anyone other than her parents to receive the value of her estate, but that is exactly what happened following her death due to local intestacy laws, which govern the distribution of estates without a will.

Second, another mistake is to forego setting up a trust. While a trust is not necessary for many estates, certain individuals might prefer the privacy afforded by a trust, which allows individuals to bequeath money to their heirs without it being a part of the public record. Living trusts also offer estate tax benefits in a lot of cases.

Third, many estate planners take all the steps necessary to create a sound will and estate plan but they never update it. The thing is, laws change, family circumstances change and relationships change. Just because an individual set up his or her estate plan one way 10 years ago does not mean that it still accurately reflects their wishes and the current laws now. Therefore, it is vital to review and possibly update one's estate plan annually.

Fourth, many estate planners never make a plan for disability. A complete estate plan will be able to serve an individual in the event of incapacitation via power of attorney documents that appoint an appropriate and trustworthy person to make decisions on one's behalf in the event the estate planner is no longer able.

Example after example of celebrities and other individuals who failed to carry out these four important estate planning steps can be made. In order to avoid becoming one of these statistics, New York residents may want to discuss their current and future needs with a qualified estate planning attorney before it is too late.

Source: Forbes, "Prince Made One Of The 4 Big Estate-Planning Mistakes," Danielle and Andrew Mayoras, April 27, 2016

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