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Missing and confusing documents can derail your estate planning

Most people realize the importance of planning their estate to provide for their loved ones when they pass on. In an ideal situation, all assets would be distributed fairly without any unforeseen snags, mistakes or anyone being left out. However, there are quite a few ways in which estate administration planning can go wrong, leaving an estate to be dealt with in probate -- or worse, the subject of lawsuits and bitter family resentment.

Estate planning attorneys say there are many steps to take to ensure one's assets are protected. Even people who are confident their wills are solid may find out their estate plans have flaws that can cause complicated and costly problems for their beneficiaries. In one attorney's experience, only one in every 2,000 trusts he reviewed had the proper wording and documentation to avoid confusion and problems. In his practice, documents that are outdated and incomplete occur frequently.

So how can you plan your estate so you can be sure the distribution of assets goes the way you want and that your loved ones' interests are protected? Among the provisions to review with your estate planning attorney are documents that protect heirs from bankruptcy, divorce and remarriage lawsuits; wording that clearly outlines your intentions as to who can make medical decisions on behalf of the trustor and which decisions are permissible; and who can access crucial medical documents in the event of an emergency.

It is vital for Floridians planning their wills to include these provisions as well as to ensure that important documents and papers that protect beneficiaries from inheritance tax issues and family disputes are in place. An experienced estate planning attorney understands that the process of preparing your estate for your death is a complicated and confusing one and can help avoid ambiguity with respect to estate planning.

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune, "Only one in every 2,000 estate plans will work properly," Feb. 17, 2013

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