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Cautionary estate planning tales: how to avoid joining the crowd

Do you perhaps need a little motivation to get started on sound estate planning that will benefit your family and safeguard against unwanted outcomes down the road?

If so, you're far from alone. Many people strongly intend to put their financial and health affairs in order and simply slip a bit on following through as time goes by.

That can bring unfortunate results.

One commentator in a recent media article on estate planning sounds a cautionary tale for what can happen when would-be estate plans are not timely put into place or, conversely, when they were not well thought out or completely fashioned.

For starters, says experienced estate planner Carissa Giebel, they can sorely defeat a planner’s best intentions. That is clearly evidenced in the story of a woman who left a sizable estate to her minor son in a will. Tragically, he died just hours after she passed. The entire estate then went to the boy’s father, who was a drug addict and essentially a non-parent.

Things could have worked out quite differently had the woman executed a trust and named a contingent beneficiary.

In another case, adult children had no idea that their father had a $1 million life insurance policy. When he had an incapacitating stroke and had to enter a nursing home, they canceled his bank account.

That stopped his insurance payments. The insurer sent a letter, but the children never received it. The policy lapsed and the man died shortly thereafter. His family members received nothing.

“Don’t let your story be one for people to learn from,” says Giebel.

Instead, she says, secure timely advice from a proven estate planning attorney, who can spot uncertainties and help a client plan for them, as well as execute planning documents in a manner that will ensure their legal enforceability.

Source: Green Bay Press Gazette, "Carissa Giebel column: Estate planning mistakes to learn from," Carissa Giebel, March 24, 2014

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