Estate Planning Mistakes

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When you are setting up an estate plan, there are many pitfalls that can frustrate your intentions.  The primary objectives of many people setting up estate plans include: (1) distributing the decedent’s financial legacy; (2) minimizing estate tax liabilities of beneficiaries; and (3) preventing unreasonable delay and costs associated with probate.  Some reasons that estate plans prepared without a knowledgeable New Jersey estate planning attorney fail to accomplish their goals include the following:

Inartfully Drafted Estate Planning Documents: The best thought out estate plans must be based on documents that are artfully drafted and executed in compliance with legal requirements.  Prospective clients sometimes approach our New Jersey estate planning lawyers with documents with ambiguous language, a failure to address relevant issues, or improper execution of the documents.  When we prepare an estate plan, we attempt to preempt challenges and potential problems.  Contested estate administrations often arise when a will, living trust, power of attorney or other estate planning document is prepared with the use of self-help books or computer programs or by typing services, paralegals, and other non-attorneys.

Neglecting to Update an Estate Plan: The creation of an estate plan often is viewed as having a static defined endpoint  rather than being part of an ongoing process.  An estate plan that is the best option for a client today might become outdated based on changes in tax law, property law, estate law, family law, and other practice areas.  Estate plans should be periodically reviewed and analyzed by a knowledgeable estate planning attorney to ensure that new laws do not merit modification of your plan or documents.  Many changes in an individual’s life and family also justify a review, such as a remarriage, divorce, adoption, the birth of a child/grandchild, retirement, and illness, just to name a few examples.

Failure to Engage in Strategic Planning: Attempts to use a software program to draft a will or a typing service to draft a living trust often cause problems because of a failure to carefully consider a comprehensive estate plan.  An estate planning document that is not part of a holistic plan can have unintended consequences that include tax liabilities that could have been avoided.  At our New Jersey estate planning law firm, we carefully analyze a client’s goals, liabilities, and assets often in the context of issues our client has not even considered.  Some of the issues our lawyers consider include:

  • Planning for long-term care (e.g. nursing home financial planning)
  • Tax impact on our client and beneficiaries
  • Timing of the distribution of assets and income
  • Protecting assets from the creditors of clients and their beneficiaries
  • Access to and control of assets and earnings
  • Client’s intentions regarding the distribution of assets

We are one of the most experienced and accomplished estate planning law firms in New Jersey with more than 30 years of experience. If you are considering estate planning options in NJ or NY, we invite you to call us now at (201) 690-1642 to set up a consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced estate planning lawyer in New Jersey or New York City.


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