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Estate planning mistakes can reverse one's intentions

There are a number of mistakes that one can make along the way to getting an estate plan in place and functioning properly. The most obvious mistake is to fail to do it. Putting off the initiation or completion of the estate planning process gets the individual no protection whatever. If one dies without a will in Florida, the state will administer a set of rules stating who will inherit and how much, which may not be what the decedent would have desired.

If a person has made up an estate plan, that is not the end of it. One cannot set up a bunch of papers and expect them to stay effective through the next several decades. Estate planning is a dynamic process that requires changes and modifications to fit changing life patterns and other circumstances. Deaths, divorces and other decisions by one's beneficiaries may make them no longer the desired persons to inherit.

The same applies to executors and trustees. They may have come into the testator's disfavor, died, become disabled or otherwise changed their status. All of one's estate planning documents must be reviewed periodically for changes in those who have been designated to administer and those who have been chosen to inherit.

Another area that must be checked involves life insurance policies, retirement plans and investment accounts that contain beneficiary listings. One must review to determine whether the existing beneficiary designations are still good and desirable. If the beneficiary has predeceased the owner of the policy or plan, the proceeds will not go to an individual but will go directly to the decedent's estate where the proceeds will be subject to probate.

It is therefore crucial to make sure that all beneficiary designations are current. Another common estate planning mistake that occurs is when someone makes a revocable living trust, which is of course something that is operative during the benefactor's lifetime. If the trust if fully made out and signed, but the assets have not been transferred to the trust's bank account, then the trust is ineffective and not operative under Florida law and the law of other states.

Source: newhampshire.com, "Mistakes with estate planning could nullify your intentions", Marc A. Hebert, Dec. 29, 2017

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