Common Estate Planning Mistakes

June '21 Blog

Estate planning is a critical part of growing older and preparing for your future. A comprehensive estate plan ensures that your assets are secure, your wishes are honored, and your loved ones are taken care of. However, estate planning is a complex process, and a single error can leave your hard work null and void. Fortunately, the professionals at O’Leary Law Office can help. We’ve worked with countless families to establish extensive estate plans, and can help you get ready for retirement and beyond. Learn all about some of the mistakes we typically come across when reviewing individuals’ estate plans, and how to avoid them below!

Not Starting Early Enough

While estate planning is crucial to securing your future, it is not the most enjoyable process. There are hard decisions to make, countless considerations, and years of financial records to trawl through. This leads individuals and families to avoid broaching the subject, often until it’s too late. In fact, according to, as of 2020 “only 16% of Americans ages 18-34 said they have a will or another estate planning document.” 

This is a huge oversight. If you were to pass away unexpectedly without a will or other key estate planning documents in place, your loved ones will be left picking up the pieces. These pieces include identifying assets, paying leftover debts, and entering probate, among other difficult tasks. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix. Start. Whether that means discussing it with your partner or meeting with a professional estate planning attorney, the first step is simply starting. 

Failing to Update Documents

Estate plans are not timeless. If you established a will years ago and haven’t looked at it since, it’s probably out of date. Estate plans should be updated any time there is a significant change in your circumstances, such as getting married, buying new property, or having children. It’s also important to review your estate plan, will, and beneficiaries every few years to make sure they are still up to date and your bases are covered. 

Not Coordinating Estate Plan Documents

People often underestimate the importance of coordination when updating their estate plan. Many individuals will make a change in their will, but neglect to update other critical records, such as beneficiary selections, heirs, and IRA documents. This can lead to significant issues down the road. Beneficiary forms for accounts such as IRAs, 401(k)s, and life insurance policies are not only legally binding documents, but also supersede any other designations detailed in your will. This can result in your estate being placed in probate, or being distributed to the wrong person. 

Only Naming a Single Beneficiary

A beneficiary is an individual or group who will receive assets from a deceased individual’s estate, and are key components of a comprehensive estate plan. However, it’s important to designate more than one. If your beneficiary passes away before you do, your estate may be placed in probate to determine where it will go. It’s crucial to name a contingent beneficiary to ensure that your assets go to the right place, or you may risk leaving your family to pick up the pieces. 

Neglecting to Name Power of Attorney

An estate plan serves many purposes– it ensures your final wishes are met, your assets are distributed properly, and your care is planned for. However, it also serves to name an individual who will make important decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to. This is known as a Power of Attorney, and it serves to empower someone to make decisions about your assets if you are incapacitated. In a similar vein is the Healthcare Power of Attorney– an individual who will make key medical decisions in the event that you are no longer able. These trusted individuals will be asked to place your best interests above their own, and make difficult decisions for you if you can’t. It’s important to establish both selections while estate planning to make sure that your health and assets will be looked after. Without these designations in place, your family may be unsure of what to do if you cannot speak for yourself. 

O’Leary Law Office Circleville Estate Planning Attorney

Creating an estate plan is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your loved ones. If you’ve been putting it off or are unsure of where to start, the Circleville estate planning attorney at O’Leary Law Office can help. We have worked with countless Ohio families to establish comprehensive estate plans to protect for the future. Contact us today to learn more!