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5 Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Estate Plan

Not having a will usually ranks high on the list of top estate planning errors, but you may already be familiar of the consequences of dying without one. North Carolina’s laws on intestate succession determine how your assets are distributed to your heirs, taking control out of your hands. Your estate may go to individuals you never intended, regardless of your wishes. However, instead of reiterating the importance of executing a will, you should be aware of some additional estate planning mistakes that aren’t as well-known. With guidance from a North Carolina estate planning attorney, you can avoid other slip-ups and oversights that can lead to adverse implications, including:


  1. Going “DIY” with Your Will: You’ve certainly seen ads online for software solutions that allow you to create your own will. All you do is choose your state of residency, provide distributions for beneficiaries, and sign according to state requirements. The cost makes this option attractive, but “one size fits all” may not adequately protect your estate or achieve your estate planning goals.
  2. Neglecting to Account for Joint Assets: Certain types of assets may be jointly held, in which case they go to the surviving owner upon your death – not your estate for distribution according to your will. Examples include:
  • Checking, savings, investment, and other accounts; and,
  • Real estate that you hold jointly with right of survivorship.

In addition, many assets allow you to designate a beneficiary, such as bank accounts and life insurance policies. These assets transfer to a beneficiary by operation of law, so you cannot pass them by will.

  1. Not Planning for Incapacity: Not all of your estate planning documents kick in upon your death; in fact, there are some that are extremely important during your lifetime. Under North Carolina law, you can prepare an Advance Directive, which includes a medical power of attorney and living will. In it, you appoint an agent to make health care decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. You should also consider a Durable Financial Power of Attorney, where you name an agent to manage your assets.
  1. Failing to Revisit Your Plan: Preparing an estate plan isn’t something you check off your To-Do list and call it a completed task. Certain life events require you to revisit the arrangements you’ve made, in case you want to make changes. The birth of a child, marriage, divorce, remarriage, or death of a beneficiary are examples. 
  1. Withholding Details from Your Estate Planning Lawyer: Full, honest disclosure is essential for your attorney to properly advise you on your estate planning options. Make sure you raise any topic or issue that may be relevant so your lawyer can determine how it might impact your plan.

Count on a North Carolina Estate Planning Attorney to Avoid Critical Mistakes

At Howard, Stallings, From, Atkins, Angell & Davis, P.A., we’re committed to offering useful, practical advice to ensure you avoid critical errors with estate planning. To learn more about our legal services, please contact us to set up a consultation with a knowledgeable lawyer. We can meet with you at any of our offices in Raleigh, New Bern, or Morehead City, NC.

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