1 – No plan at all –
A very common mistake we see in our Roseville Estate Planning Law firm is one of inaction. Many families in the Placer, El Dorado and Sacramento county area have no plans in place to handle their affairs if a problem arises. If these people become incapacitated there will be no one with the authority to act on their behalf.
We don’t plan for this possibility because we don’t want to think it can happen to us. This leaves those with no plans with the default plans of California State Law. Medical and financial decisions will be handled according to the voluminous state code. It is unlikely that things will go as the plan-less would want without an Advanced Health Care Directive and a Durable Power of Attorney.
An unconscious person still needs to pay the bills. Without a Durable Power of Attorney giving an agent the authority to access financial accounts no one can pay the bills. A court process called conservatorship would be required to allow someone the right to deal with banks, credit unions, social security and any other financial institution. Conservatorship can take many months and the costs will have to be paid from the incapacitated person’s assets.
We all hope nothing bad will happen to us, but it does anyway, so we might as well have a plan.
2 – Secret Plans –
Another mistake frequently made, especially by the older generation, is keeping your estate plans a secret. It is important to maintain privacy and protect from identity theft. It is equally important that those who you want to handle your affairs when you can’t, know what they are supposed to do and where your documents are. If no one can find your Revocable Trust, Power of Attorney or Advanced Health Care directive, it might as well not exist.
If you are concerned about sharing your financial information with your trusted agent then at least let them know where to find your documents when they are needed. A copy of most of these documents will work as well as the original, so you can leave the originals in your fire box or bank safety deposit box, but keep copies where they can be accessed.
3 and 4 –
Unfinished and Unfunded Estate Plans
On occasion a new client will bring in their “completed” estate planning documents for us to review. Sometimes these documents are unsigned, not dated, and not legally valid. A missing notary stamp and signature leaves an expensive do it yourself Trust as a paper weight and useless for the intended purpose. Another mistake is failing to place assets in the Revocable Living Trust even if it is signed and executed correctly. This is usually the personal residence of the creator of the Trust. Since the main reason the average person uses a trust is to take care of their house, paying someone to create a trust that doesn’t make sure the home is deeded correctly is a complete waste of time and money.