Mullen and Iannarone, P.C.
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Avoiding major estate planning mistakes

For a variety of reasons, many New York residents don't want to think about their passing away. People sometimes thus put off estate planning, viewing it as something to do later. There are several common errors that people make with estate planning that should be avoided.

One of the biggest errors people make is failing to draft or failing to sign a will. Some people fail to write one all together, while others have wills prepared but wait months or years before they sign them. When a will is not signed, it may be disregarded by the court.

People fail to write wills sometimes because they believe their estates will be exempt from estate taxes because of the federal exclusion of $5.43 million. They need to be aware of New York's own estate tax, which has a much lower exclusion. Wills and estate plans can be used to do more than avoid taxes as well. They may also be used to protect assets from lawsuits and creditors or to donate to a charitable cause. Finally, failing to update the plan to reflect major life changes, such as a divorce or the birth of a child, is also a common mistake and one to avoid.

People who want to plan for the distribution of their assets after they die or who have had a significant life change may want to obtain the assistance of an estate planning attorney. For those that have estate plans in place, they may want to consult with the attorney about updating it. The attorney may be able to do so in a way that helps to minimize estate taxes. They may also help those who do not have estate plans in place choose the type of documents that best meet their needs and goals.

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