If you are a parent, you likely do something every day to protect your child, from making sure they wear their seat belt to setting up a college fund. And this job of protecting your kids is not something that ends when a parent passes away.
The decision to create an estate plan or not could have a dramatic impact on a child’s well-being long after a parent is gone. Thus, it is crucial to avoid some common mistakes.
- Not creating a plan: If you do not have an estate plan, you could be leaving loose ends, financial burdens and a complicated process for your children to manage. Additionally, you might be putting them in the position to make painful decisions about end-of-life care or fight over property distribution without your guidance.
- Having gaps or outdated information in your plan: Once you have a plan, you should update it periodically. Doing so ensures the document is accurate and reflects your current circumstances, making the probate process easier. Further, you may need to add or change documents as your children get older, such as guardianships and beneficiary information.
- Leaving unclear directions: If your wishes are unclear or conflicting, you make it more difficult for your family to know what you want. This confusion can lead to will contests, legal disputes, and personal conflicts that strain your loved ones’ relationships.
- Failing to talk to your children: Too often, people keep the contents and even the existence of their estate plan secret. This can be a mistake, as it takes away the opportunity for your family to ask questions and manage expectations. While you need not share every detail of your plans with your kids, having an age-appropriate discussion about your wishes, values and legacy can equip them for the road ahead.
- Not making a valid will: You might think you have adequate plans in place for end-of-life care or final arrangements, but if these plans are not valid or enforceable, it can be as if you have no plans at all. Thus, parents should be sure their will and other estate planning documents are in writing and free from undue influence.
No parent is perfect; we all make mistakes. However, these are mistakes parents can and should avoid.