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The Top 7 Mistakes in Estate Planning: #1 Not Planning to Avoid Probate

During the Middle Ages, crusaders sailing East developed Trusts to protect their families and their assets when they could not.  A lot has changed over the centuries, but the essential purpose of estate planning has not. People plan to protect themselves and their families from probate, taxes and costly mistakes.  However, without fully understanding the changing legal and financial landscape even a well thought out estate plan can fail.  It is critical to plan with skilled legal, tax and financial professionals and to watch out for common pitfalls. If you have already planned your estate or are considering creating a plan these are the seven most common mistakes to be wary of.  

Mistake No. 1:  Not planning to avoid probate  

Many people only have a will or nothing at all to direct the disposition of their estate.  However, a will alone cannot avoid the expenses and time delays of the probate process for those with estates greater than $15,000.  Even in the simplest situation the process requires a minimum of a year.  If your family or financial situation is more complicated because of blended families or conflict among your children, the process can take much longer than that.

The probate process is also public, with family and financial matters becoming public record, including announcements in the local papers.  This can attract unsavory attention to a surviving spouse or other family members.

Consider avoiding the expenses and time delays of probate and protect your family with a Trust. A Trust, with you in charge, can own your home and other assets and allow them to pass to your family smoothly and efficiently.  It can also build in tax savings and asset protection that a will cannot. It is very important to work with a qualified professional who will help you understand how a trust and other documents should be designed to meet your goals.