At Intent, we’re avoiding estate planning mistakes, not estate planning

October 26th, 2022 post featured image

Are you someone who has given thought to what it means to leave a legacy? Many people immediately interpret legacy as having financial connotations – leaving an inheritance or donating to charity or a sentimental cause. Some might interpret legacy as an enduring testament to personal or moral character – we want to be remembered in a certain, usually positive light, and so we act accordingly throughout our lives.

But leaving a legacy doesn’t have to be a grand gesture or statement, it doesn’t even need to be categorized or labelled as a “legacy,” if that isn’t something that is important to you. Most of us are united by the desire not to leave our grieving loved ones with a bunch of legal and bureaucratic hoops to jump through. 

Unfortunately, because a significant percentage of us don’t want to think about when or how or what comes after our passing, we like to avoid engaging in activities that remind us of our mortality, like estate planning. Fair enough, but the truth is, avoidance doesn’t diminish our fear. If anything, it allows fear to fester because we prevent ourselves from learning that what we’re afraid of isn’t as dangerous as we believe. For more helpful tips on overcoming anxiety through exposure, click here.

So how does estate planning help us feel in control and ultimately, reduce our anxieties? An excellent article from Forbes breaks it down nicely by framing it as a “risk sifting” activity. It tells us estate planning strategies focus on the following 4 things:

  1. Transferring the risk to another party (i.e., life insurance);
  2. Avoiding the risk (i.e., asset protection);
  3. Reducing the negative effect or probability of the risk (i.e., discounting techniques); or
  4. Accepting some or all of the potential or actual consequences of a particular risk (i.e., including closely held stock in an estate to get a stepped-up tax basis).

In keeping with the avoidance theme, it’s time to talk about wills – the thing everyone thinks about when they think about estate planning. In the past, we’ve gone into detail the ways wills can help protect our families in our absence and how to get started on a will when the motivation just isn’t there. In sum, we talk a lot about estate planning, especially wills. And this time around, we’re focused on some things to be wary of.

Improper signatures and/or witnesses

This may be less of an issue when an official legal will is done up because the lawyer and/or their assistant is going to be checking to make sure everything is kosher. When it comes to holographic wills however – wills done without a lawyer – getting the right people to sign is imperative. Financial institutions will go through with a fine-tooth comb to ensure assets are being disbursed correctly and they catch potentially abusive situations. If there is an issue with a signature, it could take months of headache to solve, that is, if it can even be solved. For guidance on signature best practice, visit willful.

Outdated documents

Are you still friends with your high school classmates? Are you still married to your first partner? Essentially, we’re asking is if your circumstances have changed in the years since you got that insurance policy or specified a power of attorney. There’s no shame if the answer is yes. Most of us have or will experience something similar. It becomes a problem when we forget to update our important documents to reflect our current situations. Best practice is to review the key documents – your will, power of attorney and health care directive – every couple of years to ensure your wishes aren’t falling by the wayside.

At Intent Planning, we’re invested in helping our clients minimize risk and feel secure in their and their family’s future but understand many of these proactive plans come with a price tag. So, since the holiday season is almost upon us, we have a suggestion. If the financial cost of getting a will done up is a significant deterrent for you and you don’t feel confident in doing a holographic will, why not crowd fund? Now is the perfect time to tell loved ones looking for gift ideas, that you’re interested in doing up a will and would love if they could support that effort with monetary contributions.

For more information or advice on how to get started on or improve your estate plan, connect with us.