Top 5 Estate Planning Mistakes

Published: Apr. 21, 2020 at 3:28 PM EDT
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Mistakes in your estate plan can be costly to you and your loved ones. Whether you set up your plan 20+ years ago, last week, or have yet to set up a plan, be sure that you do not fall victim to these frequent estate planning mistakes!

1. Not having a plan.

It’s our motto at

that “it’s never too early to plan.” ALL adults over the age of 18 should have at least their basic estate planning documents in place. Our youngest client who unexpectedly needed her power of attorney documents was only 22 years old when she was involved in a tragic accident and unable to take care of her affairs for a period of time. In this type of situation, we can only create a person’s documents if they have capacity; otherwise, we have to go through a costly and time-consuming process called a conservatorship/guardianship. By having documents in place when you are healthy, you have peace of mind knowing your loved ones will have the tools they need to help you in an emergency!

2. Not hiring a professional.

I have never reviewed a DIY Will written either by the client, a computer program, or a kit that actually met all of the client’s stated goals. People choose DIY to save money now, but in the long run it may cost you and your loved ones more money to sort out the mess you leave behind!

3. Not reviewing your plan.

Family circumstances change, laws change, and your goals change! When there is a marriage, divorce, new child, move, or any other life change, it is a good idea to schedule a review with your attorney. This way, you ensure your documents still meet your needs and goals and your estate plan remains up to date with current laws.

4. Not getting the right documents.

There are some documents that all adults should have –

. A good foundation includes a Durable Power of Attorney that appoints an Agent to manage your finances and non-medical issues, a Last Will & Testament directing how your assets should be handled when you pass away. It also includes three medical documents:

• HIPAA Authorization and Release which states who can access your medical information and records;

• Living Will that communicates your preferences for life-prolonging care and comfort-care measures if you are in a permanent vegetative state; and

• Medical Power of Attorney that appoints a Healthcare Representative to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to for a period of time.

However, an estate plan is never “one size fits all” which is why your estate planning attorney will probably ask for financial and family information prior to your initial consultation. This information is important so your attorney can work with you to develop your unique plan while achieving your goals.

5. Underestimating trusts as a powerful planning tool.

The final common mistake is thinking that a trust may not be for you based on your assets and income. Trusts are not just for the rich, they provide security and privacy for average families as well. Trusts can be used to avoid probate, to smoothly transition your assets to your loved ones after you pass, to protect assets from the rising costs of long term nursing home care, to avoid certain taxes, and a variety of other estate planning goals your attorney can help you identify.

Now that you understand the potential mistakes that can be made when creating your estate plan, don’t delay! Call an estate planning attorney today – it is never too early to plan. You can reach Seamon Law Offices, PLLC at 304.554.2900 or

Doreen L. Seamon is the owner of Seamon Law Offices PLLC, an estate and elder law planning firm in Morgantown, West Virginia. Her practice focuses exclusively in estate planning, elder law, trusts, asset protection, probate, trust administration, long-term care Medicaid, and Veterans’ pension and compensation. She is licensed and represents clients in West Virginia. Ms. Seamon is a member of The West Virginia State Bar, American Bar Association, Monongalia County Bar Association, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, North Central West Virginia Estate Planning Council, PACE Enterprises Board of Directors, Senior Health Advisory, and is an Elder Counsel Ambassador. Ms. Seamon earner her B.S. degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Management Information Systems from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and her J.D. degree from West Virginia University College of Law. Doreen’s TV show, Elder Care Answers, is seen every Sunday at 11:30am on WDTV 5 News.