About Common Problems With Estate Plans

About Common Problems With Estate Plans

Dear Counselor: I’ve tried to take the time to work on an estate plan that is going to meet my goals, preserve my assets from the “tax man”, and see to it that my loved ones are protected.  Even so, I’m worried about what I may have missed. What do you see as some of the most widespread problems with estate plans that you review in your practice?

Dear Client: I could write a book on it, but let me give you two of the worst.  First, there is the person with the estate plan who doesn’t really understand it!  At least half the people I see don’t fully understand their plan, can’t explain it, and don’t really know if it meets their wishes.  Both parties cause the problem, I think.  Clients often don’t ask enough questions.  Some don’t want to appear uninformed.  Others take a somewhat passive role, believing the attorney is the expert and must be relied on to do the right thing.  But you need to ask questions about anything you don’t understand and make the estate planner take the time to explain it.  Take notes, because you aren’t likely to remember all the explanations.  Ask questions until you believe you understand the plan.  If the estate planner can’t explain things adequately, consider another estate planner.

The second is often there is a lack of sharing between spouses. Spouses don’t always fully inform each other about their financial situation and own plans for what they would like done with their estate.  I have found that spouses aren’t likely to have discussed factors such as retirement income needs, where retirement income will come from, debts, details of estate plans, and plans for long-term care.  Since it is likely that at some point one spouse will be alone to handle the wealth and finish the estate plan, it is important for spouses to discuss these issues and come to and understanding about them.

John L. Maier, Jr.

For further information contact:

Sweet & Maier, S.C., Attorneys
114 Church St.
Elkhorn, Wisconsin