Today I want to share with you the five biggest mistakes I see with people and their estate planning documents. You may disagree. You may find that the order of them is different in your view, but I’ve been doing this a long time, and these are things that we have seen over the years that we’ve classified as the five biggest mistakes people make.
The first biggest mistake or number five is doing it yourself. Estate planning documents are very, very important. You know, just like if you’re told you need heart surgery, that’s something that’s very, very important. It’s critical and if you need any kind of surgery, you’re not going to pull out a knife and start doing it yourself. You’re going to go to somebody who’s experienced and qualified, has done that before, and they know what they’re doing so that you’re sure that the outcome is the outcome you want. The same applies with your estate planning documents, doing it yourself, if you are not an estate planning attorney, is a critical mistake. Even attorneys who have no experience in estate planning, probably shouldn’t do it themselves. Even though they’re legally authorized to do it, they probably shouldn’t because you need experience in doing this.
Number four is getting the fill in forms online, office supply store, or using a non-lawyer/paralegal to help you complete forms. Forms are just that, one-size-fits-all. That’s why you can do a form, you fill in blanks because the form fits everybody. Well, estate plans are highly individualized. You have particular desires, particular wishes, and those wishes probably vary drastically from the next person watching this video, and even from the last person who watched this video. I can guarantee you people have different requests, different wishes, different desires and different plans, having met with thousands of people and done their estate plans. So, utilizing a one-size-fits-all form or going to a non-lawyer; talk about that for a minute, non-lawyer legal services, all they can do is help you fill out forms, they cannot provide you any legal advice. You have to be a lawyer to provide legal advice. To provide legal advice in this area, you should be experienced in this area. Mistake number four is thinking I can get this done by simply buying something online and filling in blanks, nothing can be further from the truth.
Number three is to fail to properly execute Your documents. This is the most common way documents get thrown out. So, the person, maybe they did it with a lawyer who’s not experienced, maybe they use these online forms, but they failed to sign under the proper circumstances that are required, not optional, not well I hope you did it; If they are not signed correctly, they are invalid and it’s the same as having not done it at all. So, failure to execute the documents properly is a major mistake that we see often when people do not use a qualified and experienced attorney to assist them through this process.
Number two is the failure to use clear language. Maybe you write it yourself, maybe someone somewhere else wrote it, you’re using a form; what’s important for you, is you have an individualized plan, a desire that’s personal to you. The language that explains that plan must be clear, not subject to multiple interpretations. Well, it could mean this but maybe it means that, it may be valid, executed and drawn properly but not clear. If it’s not clear then a court won’t know what to do, if a court doesn’t know what to do, you can expect at least fifty percent chance what you wanted to happen is not going to happen. What certainly will happen is it’ll be a lot of fighting, delay, and expense over this document that doesn’t have clear language identifying your wishes.
Finally, the most common mistake I have seen having done this for a bunch of years, having spoke on this hundreds of times, is people who think they can do it later. Right, well, I’ll do it tomorrow. You know, I feel okay, I don’t need to do it. That’s a major, major misconception and it’s the biggest mistake that you can make. You know, they say, when is the best time to plant a tree? The answer is yesterday. Then what’s the second-best time to plant a tree? Today. Estate planning is just like that. We have clients who had no estate plan and they come in, in their nineties; I tell them they’re very fortunate to have made it to that point, but very responsible to do it today. That’s when it needs to be done. So, mistake number one is thinking you have tomorrow to get it done and putting it off till tomorrow.
Read the obituaries, you see the headlines, people of all ages are dying for various reasons, various circumstances. You should take the responsible step to protect your family and your loved ones, make sure that your desires and your wishes are properly documented, and then you can have peace about that.