The Most Common Estate Planning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Let’s face it: thinking about Estate Planning can feel a bit grim, but it’s one of those necessary tasks that can save a lot of headaches down the line. 

We all start with the best of intentions, aiming to protect our loved ones and ensure our assets are distributed as we wish. However, it’s alarmingly easy to slip up, potentially causing unnecessary stress, financial strain, or even jeopardizing the inheritance we intend for our family.

Examples of Common Mistakes

We’re going to dive into some of the typical blunders that people make in their Estate Planning endeavors. By examining a few high-profile mistakes and their consequences, we’ll highlight the importance of getting it right and how you can sidestep these common pitfalls.


Ah, procrastination – the thief of time. It’s a common obstacle in many areas of our lives, including Estate Planning.

If you think that you don’t need an Estate Plan at such a young age, or if you keep postponing the process assuming you will have a lot of time to get to it, you might be putting your and your family’s future in jeopardy. You can also fall into a cycle of procrastination that leads you to not have an Estate Plan even in your 50s or 60s. 

When Sonny Bono, musician and politician, passed away in a skiing accident at the age of 62, he left no will behind. Bono had secretly fathered a child out of wedlock, and this only got revealed after his death, adding complexity to the distribution of his estate, which was claimed not only by his ex-wife Cher but also by the newly surfaced child.

Since you cannot predict the future, you should take the steps you need to in the present. Create an Estate Plan so that even when you’re no longer here, your commitment to protecting your loved ones will be.

Not Updating the Plan

Life is full of changes, and your Estate Plan needs to reflect that. An outdated plan can cause as many issues as having no plan at all, potentially leaving out intended beneficiaries or inadvertently including the wrong ones.

Stieg Larsson, the Swedish author renowned for creating The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, explored themes of women as victims in his works. Tragically, he left his girlfriend of 32 years without any inheritance when he passed away without a will. According to Swedish law, his entire estate was divided between his father and brother.

Updating and reviewing your plans regularly can ensure that your loved ones don’t have to deal with any conflict or stress in your absence.

Ignoring Important Parts

The documents included in an Estate Plan have also changed over time. For example, digital assets such as online accounts did not used to be a consideration, but are a common addition to Estate Plans nowadays. 

With innovations in the medical industry, it is also important to communicate your wishes regarding any medical decisions to be made for you, as well as appointing a power of attorney who can take decisions beyond what you have specified, 

Failing to Communicate

Communication is key in Estate Planning. If you fail to tell your loved ones what decisions you are making and why, it can lead to potential conflict and misunderstandings in the future. Additionally, if your loved ones are not aware of where your assets are, they can make mistakes in handling your Estate.

An example of a lack of communication is Florence “FloJo” Griffith Joyner, the Olympic sprinter. She had created her will, however, she kept its location a secret. As a consequence, her husband couldn’t file it within the mandated 30 days after her death, as required by state law. This led to a legal dispute between her husband and mother, prompting the involvement of a third party in the administration of the estate.

DIY Wills and Not Getting Expert Help

Finally, while DIY wills may seem appealing for their cost-effectiveness, they often fall short in addressing complex legal nuances. 

Warren Burger, a former Supreme Court Justice, attempted to draft his own will in a succinct 176 words. Unfortunately, his brevity resulted in unintended consequences for his family, leading to over $450,000 in estate taxes and court fees that might have been avoided with a more comprehensive approach.

The ease of DIY wills no longer remains bountiful if it leads to problems for you or your family in the future, so creating an Estate Plan with professionals can prevent these pitfalls. Experts can make sure your plan is tailored to your needs and your goals, and make sure you haven’t missed anything important.

Avoiding Mistakes and Protecting Your Legacy

We hope that knowing about these common mistakes will help you avoid them. The best strategy to make sure your Estate Plan is just right for you is to get in touch with Estate Planning Attorneys who can give you their expert knowledge.

Moreover, keeping your Estate Plan up-to-date and maintaining open lines of communication with your beneficiaries are crucial steps in ensuring your wishes are fulfilled.

If you’re ready to start or update your Estate Plan in the best possible way and avoid all of these pitfalls, contact us today!