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Some common estate planning mistakes

Florida residents may be interested in an article detailing some of the biggest mistakes that people make when planning their end-of-life personal and financial affairs. Failing to have a plan at all is one error, but there are others that may be less apparent.

A properly-executed estate plan allows the smooth transfer of assets upon one's death and may reduce the tax that must be paid by the estate or its beneficiaries. The four parts of any basic estate plan include a will, a durable power of attorney for both finances and health care, and a living will. Failure to have all of these documents can leave holes in the estate plan, particularly when a person becomes incapacitated later in life. Not becoming educated or enlisting the help of an estate planning professional to explore the tax and legal issues involved can also be a big mistake.

Failure to have a will, the basis of any estate plan, can lead to the distribution of assets in a way that the decedent may not have wanted. In cases where a person dies without a will, state intestacy laws will govern how and to whom the court apportions those assets. Without a living will, it is not guaranteed that end-of-life decisions will be made according to a person's wishes. The lack of a healthcare power of attorney, which gives the power to make general healthcare decisions to another should the person be incapacitated, produces a similar effect. A financial power of attorney directs another to make financial decisions should the person be unable to do so due to incapacity.

An estate planning attorney will be able to assist in the preparation of these documents. The attorney may also be able to assess whether trusts or other instruments would be appropriate or advisable.

Source:, "The Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes You Can Make", Kelly Trageser , April 01, 2014

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