Beginning an estate plan can be complicated, but it is essential to safeguard yourself, your assets, and your beneficiaries. A detailed estate plan can describe your wishes for your medical care, give legal powers to trusted individuals, and keep your assets from entering probate. For your estate plan to be legally enforceable and meet your unique needs, it’s helpful to work with a St. Louis estate planning attorney.

There are several mistakes that individuals can make when drafting and maintaining their estate plans. For you to gain the benefits and protections of an estate plan, it must be straightforward, legally enforceable, and properly address your assets. Common mistakes to avoid when creating your St. Louis estate plan include:

Not Having an Estate Plan at All

A simple estate plan, with only a will, still provides some benefits. A will allows you to name the heirs to your estate and guardians for any minor children. However, a will does not keep your estate from entering probate court. Probate is when your estate is subject to division by the state, and it may lose value to creditors and state or federal taxes. Probate is a long process for grieving family members to undergo.

Your will can establish the executor of your estate and how you want assets distributed, but only a comprehensive estate plan can keep the assets out of probate. If you do not even have a will, then the court will appoint an executor, who will distribute assets according to succession laws.

Failing to Plan for End-of-Life Care

Although few people like to think about a time when they may become incapacitated or incapable due to an accident or old age, it is very common. A comprehensive estate plan includes documents such as powers of attorney and medical directives.

Medical directives can list the medical care that you consent to, where you want to receive healthcare, and other important information. Powers of attorney can place a trustworthy loved one or professional in charge of your medical care or finances in case you cannot make these decisions yourself. These documents protect you and give you some control over this part of your life.

Not Updating Your Estate Plan

Once an estate plan has been created, you must regularly update it. Failing to do so can result in individuals benefiting from your estate whom you do not want to. It can also leave assets in your estate without any beneficiaries. In more severe situations, not updating your estate plan can render it legally unenforceable. Estate plans should be updated after important life and family changes, such as:

  • Divorces
  • Marriages
  • Additions to a family
  • Deaths in the family
  • Retirement
  • Business ventures

Failing to Name Contingent Beneficiaries

In addition to updating your will, it is important to plan for situations where you cannot update a will in time by naming contingent beneficiaries. When you only name one beneficiary to an asset, the asset will enter probate if that beneficiary dies before you do. Naming one or more contingent beneficiaries will prevent this.

Waiting Until Late in Life to Make an Estate Plan

Many individuals put off estate planning until much too late. There are several benefits to beginning an estate plan early in life, including avoiding will contests. Will contests are more likely when your estate plan was made near the end of your life, as potential beneficiaries are more likely to make claims that you lacked testamentary capacity.

By creating and regularly updating an estate plan from early in your life, these claims are less likely to be successful. If they are successful, the court will revert to a prior version of the estate plan. If you update often, this version may not be very different.


Q: What Are the Most Common Estate Planning Mistakes?

A: One of the biggest mistakes people make after creating their estate plans is failing to update them throughout their lifetime. Although working with an attorney to make a legally sound estate plan is great, it is not the last step in the process. An estate plan can easily become unenforceable because it is too out of date to carry out.

You should review estate plans every two to five years to ensure that heirs, beneficiaries, secondary beneficiaries, trustees, and executors are fit and able to receive or manage assets. You should also review an estate plan after significant life changes, including:

  • Divorces
  • Marriages
  • Births
  • Deaths
  • Retirement

Q: What Are the Biggest Mistakes That People Make With Their Wills?

A: Some common mistakes that people make with their wills include:

  1. Not creating a will
  2. Having heirs in the will that do not match the beneficiaries on specific assets
  3. Not working with an attorney on a legally enforceable will
  4. Failing to appoint an executor for your estate
  5. Not creating additional estate planning documents that are relevant to you, such as powers of attorney or a living trust
  6. Failing to create a trust or appoint a guardian for assets given to minor children
  7. Naming the wrong individual as your executor

Q: How Do I Avoid Probate in Missouri?

A: One of the most effective ways to avoid probate court in Missouri is to create a revocable trust. You can place the assets in your estate into the ownership of this trust. When you create a revocable trust, you still have control over those assets during your life.

When you die, the assets do not pass through probate court because they remain in the legal entity of the trust. Instead, they will pass to the successor trustee. This trustee is then responsible for distributing the assets in the trust to your named benefits.

Q: What Are the 3 Main Priorities That You Want to Ensure With Your Estate Plan?

A: Every individual creating an estate plan will have their own goals, but estate plans typically have the following priorities:

  1. Planning for your own care and the care of your finances if you become incapacitated through powers of attorney and a living will with medical directives
  2. Transferring your estate without the assets entering probate to minimize the costs to your loved ones
  3. Protecting your assets while you are alive and after your death to benefit yourself and your loved ones

Create an Estate Plan Today

The sooner you begin creating an estate plan with an attorney’s help, the sooner you can have peace and confidence in your future. Contact Stange Law Firm today.