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Biggest estate planning mistake is no estate plan

According to a Wall Street Journal writer, the biggest estate planning mistake that people make is not having a plan at all. And that is as true for someone from Nevada as it is for someone from New York or elsewhere. Others simply wait too long to make estate planning decisions, often until it is too late. But, let's face it, who really wants to think about being dead? However, the time to plan for what should be done if one becomes incapacitated is obviously before the event occurs. Otherwise, the decision may end up being made by a court, at some expense and sometimes in the midst of a family disagreement about the proper course of action.

Many Nevada individuals are anxious about confronting estate planning issues. It is human nature to put off thinking about death or incapacity. Some worry about the cost of consulting lawyers, accountants, insurance brokers and other professionals. But the expense is generally far less that the potential cost for doing nothing. In addition, by creating a proper plan, assets can be passed to heirs and/or charities in the manner designated.

Estate laws have changed dramatically in the last five years. Indeed, in 2010 there was no estate tax at all. The current estate tax exemption is $5 million, but it is due to revert to $1 million in 2013. No one knows what, if anything, Congress will do about the exemption or other estate and gift tax issues. For that reason alone, it is not only important to create a plan but to review it annually to seize the opportunity to take advantage of any favorable changes and to take action to minimize negative ones.

The best course of action is said to be consulting with an attorney who devotes his or her legal practice to helping individuals and families solve their estate planning issues. The lawyer can review all of the facts and circumstances particular to the client and also render important advice. Finally, the attorney can help devise a plan that both takes advantage of all that the law offers while remains true to the wishes of the client making the plan.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Taking charge of your assets," Oct. 31, 2011

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