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Estate planning mistakes may be costly

Many people follow myths and rely on outdated wills for passing on property to their heirs. This can be costly. Estate planning should go beyond the drafting of wills and encompass many documents and health and legal concerns.

First, a will does not govern the distribution of all assets. It may cover heirlooms, property and any assets that are owned in the name of one individual. But, this document does not address the distribution of any jointly owned assets, such as a joint banking accounts, or accounts that name beneficiaries.

Drafting a will does not put an end to estate concerns. A living will is necessary to address the type of health care that a person wants under certain circumstances. A health care power of attorney allows a trusted person to make important decisions when the testator is incapacitated. A power of attorney also allows another person to make financial decisions under these circumstances.

Wills and estate documents are not just for older people. Any person who has begun working, opened a retirement account or has children needs these documents. Death may be unexpected and untimely for younger individuals, which makes it even more difficult for relatives to look through belongings and make decisions. These documents are also essential for addressing important matters, such as child custody.

Likewise, wills are not just for rich people. Most people need instructions for passing on their assets and property. Creating an estate plan also allows families to place a value on their home, personal property, retirement accounts, investments, banking accounts and insurance policies.

Estate plans are not written in stone and should be altered as circumstances dictate. These include the birth of another child, marriage, retirement or choosing to add a new beneficiary to a 401(k) plan or insurance policy. These documents should be closely reviewed every three to five years.

Finally, drawing up these documents is not especially complicated or lengthy if a qualified attorney is consulted. A lawyer can help draft these documents and develop a plan that meets a person's needs.

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