Mistakes of Do It Yourselfers

Not too long ago a few attorneys & I got together and created the following list of mistakes Do It Yourselfers make.

  • Not funding the trust
  • Not signing any of the documents
  • Incorrectly executing or signing the documents
  • Failure to get a HIPAA release
  • Omitting key provisions (e.g.,naming executor or guardian for children, no residuary clause)
  • attempting to devise property that passes by law
  • not taking into account statutory allowances or homestead provisions;
  • including “boilerplate” A/B trust provisions, without understanding what they mean
  • making retirement benefits payable to a trust that does not qualify as a ‘designated beneficiary’
  • having the will witnessed, but not self-proved (not fatal, but a PITA)
  • Failure to plan for special needs beneficiaries;
  • Amending the documents improperly
  • Not enough witnesses on documents.
  • Documents don’t contain proper attestation or notary clauses
  • Documents witnessed by impermissable persons.
  • Will witnessed by beneficiary ( whoops, Will is OK but you don’t get anything).
  • Not distributing copies appropriately
  • Making irrevocable decisions which completely kill medicaid eligibility,without having LTCI or an appropriate plan
  • Never funding a Trust
  • Never sending Crummey letters

Other major issues:

  • thinking a Will will avoid probate or taxes
  • thinking that naming a guardian for children will prevent their other biological parent from getting custody
  • thinking a revocable living trust protects assets from the grantor’s creditors
  • Not updating the trust for decades.
  • Not updating the estate plan when major life changes occur
  • Never understanding why you need a Trust
  • Never asking questions so you understand what you have, why you need it, and how to properly implement it.  If you aren’t sure, ask again.
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