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Estate planning mistakes to avoid

Individuals in Delaware who are planning for the distribution of their assets after death may find it helpful to look to some recent celebrity estate planning errors. Making the appropriate arrangements based on the value of assets, communicating with family members and regularly updating the estate plan are all important.

Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman did not like the idea that his children would grow up with trust funds, but not setting up trusts for his children means that his estate is now going through an expensive probate process. Furthermore, the mother of his children who he had declined to marry is unable to take the marital tax deduction. A trust might have prevented this.

The second wife of radio personality Casey Kasem argued with his children over his health care while he was alive. Although Kasem appointed his daughter as health agent, his wife disagreed with that and his health care directives. Promoting better relationships and communication between family members may have changed this.

When his fifth wife became pregnant, writer Michael Crichton failed to update his estate plan to include that child. In fact, he had specifically disinherited future children. Crichton died before the child was born, and whether this disinheritance was deliberate is uncertain. Comedian Robin Williams did not update his trust after a trustee's death, and his management says that the trust was no longer part of his estate plan. Regularly reviewing estate plans might have prevented these situations.

Individuals may wish to approach their estate planning with precautions such as these in mind. Even individuals who are not wealthy may benefit from trusts. They can be designed to distribute money to beneficiaries only under certain conditions, such as reaching a certain age. Medical directives should be openly discussed with the entire family and not just the health agent, and estate plans should be updated after major life changes.

Source: Forbes, "Lessons Celebrities Can Teach Retirees About Estate Planning", Thomas and Robert Fross, September 16, 2014

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