New York residents in the process of estate planning should remember three common pitfalls that may cause problems for their plans. In summary, these issues are a lack of information, beneficiary designations gone wrong and outdated plans. These snags can unravel estate plans and cause family feuds that may go all the way to court.
For example, lack of information can cause problems if the family does not have access to passwords used for digital assets by the deceased. Digital accounts such as homeowners insurance, brokerage accounts and bank accounts should be listed in a master roster that makes it easier for family members to gain access. This roster, which should be physical to prevent cyber-theft, could be kept in a safe deposit box or even at home.
Estate owners should also be careful of outdated plans. If an event such as a divorce or death occurs, the estate plan should be reworked accordingly. Many people fail to update their estates and accidentally leave their assets to their divorced spouses.
Anyone planning an estate should also be aware that they need to name specific beneficiaries for their insurance policies and retirement accounts. This keeps multiple beneficiaries from overlapping, which can lead to family feuds. For example, naming one person as the heir to mutual funds does not mean anything if he or she is not also listed on file with the fund company.
Navigating the planning of an estate can be difficult, but an attorney with experience in trusts and wills may be able to help. Estate planning with the assistance of an attorney will be far more straightforward. Emotions surrounding the division of an estate often make things difficult, so having an objective third party can help prevent conflict and misunderstandings.