More Mistakes Made When Drafting an Estate Plan

As a supplement to our article “Common Mistakes to Avoid When Preparing Estate Plans,” we’re providing several more typical errors, to help clients in circumventing them.

There are numerous exceptions and “if appropriate” clauses for many of these, so be sure to contact legal counsel before proceeding.

Legal Structure

  1. Doing it yourself, without proper legal guidance.
  2. Not using complete and accurate names
  3. Not taking the proper steps to avoid probate
  4. Not signed properly
  5. Has unclear descriptions
  6. Fails to anticipate the death of beneficiaries or the executor
  7. Establishing well-intended directions that create havoc
  8. Failure to review (and update if needed) your will every three to five years, or anytime you have a major life event
  9. Not disclosing where you store your will and estate planning documents
  10. Storing your will in a safe deposit box


  1. Not considering a Living Trust
  2. Failing to establish a Power of Attorney
  3. Not executing an Advance Health Care Directive
  4. Lack of communication (outside of will) on burial wishes
  5. Forgetting about caretaker provisions for pets

Survivor, Trustee and Heirs

  1. Assuming the heirs will “work it all out”
  2. Failing To realize that survivor can change the will
  3. Failure to select backup executors in case your first choice can’t serve for any reason
  4. Didn’t gain approval of trustee to accept the job
  5. Not providing copies of the latest version of a will, in as of intentional destruction by an unscrupulous trustee
  6. Failure to grant gifting powers to Power Of Attorney
  7. Not planning for disability and long-term care


  1. Incorrect documentation for beneficiaries on bank accounts, investment and retirement account, and life insurance policies
  2. Lacking liquidity
  3. Forgetting about your non-probate assets
  4. Failure to consider probate issues in out-of-state property
  5. Does not take into account property passing outside of the will, which can be set up to pass directly to the named beneficiary
  6. Neglecting digital assets (including social media, websites, email accounts, etc.)
  7. Putting your children on the house title
  8. Assuming your children want something, when in fact they may not
  9. Not allowing for flexibility
  10. Forgetting personal property
  11. Not considering economic value vs sentimental value
  12. Dividing by dollar amounts vs percentage of total net worth (values can change over time)
  13. Providing too specific instructions on assets that change over time
  14. Does not dispose of all property, leaves out a “residuary provision”
  15. Relying on beneficiary designations with insurance companies
  16. Relying on property co-ownership to avoid probate
  17. Joint tenancy assets that create unintended consequences which can create litigation


  1. Assuming that the estates isn't worth enough to come under the estate tax system
  2. Assuming that assets such as life insurance proceeds, trusts, and retirement plans will not be included in your estate for tax purposes
  3. Not considering the impact of income taxes on your beneficiaries
  4. Not evaluating impact of gift on receiving government benefits


  1. Insufficient legal structure for partnership buy/sell agreements
  2. Forgetting minority interest real estate holdings
  3. Inadequate documentation of business interests
  4. Improper ownership of assets by spouses or business owners

Minors and Grandchildren

  1. Failure to update guardianship for children
  2. Giving large inheritances in minors
  3. Leaving real estate to a minor without proper structuring
  4. Not leaving specific guidance on how you’d want inheritances passed on to minor
  5. Neglecting special instructions for future grandchildren
  6. Not setting up a special needs trust
  7. Failure to make provisions for “problem child,” drug addicts, etc.
  8. Didn’t include directions for how a guardian should spend assets, either to take care of them, or to benefit them in other ways

Divorces and Blended Families

  1. Not updating will for divorces of trustors or beneficiaries
  2. Not using trusts to protect beneficiaries from divorce
  3. For second marriages, not establishing trusts to protect children from a previous marriage
  4. Lack of consideration for blended family issues
  5. Not establishing a bloodline trust

Specialized Estate Planning Expertise

Taking the time and effort to create a will is one of the most thoughtful steps you can take for your family and loved ones. For many families, the less decisions that are left for your heirs, the better it is for all concerned. Attending to the above issues can be a major step in heading off conflicts.

At Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC we have decades of experience in helping clients to navigate through myriad issues in estate planning. If you need legal expertise in addressing your specific estate planning needs, please contact Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC at (714) 384-6053 to make an appointment, or use our online contact form. Our website is

Tamsen ReinheimerAbout the Author:
Tamsen R. Reinheimer, Attorney, is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law (The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization). She has significant experience in all aspects of estate planning, trust administration, and probate. Contact Tamsen at

Related Posts
  • Will vs. Living Trust vs. Living Will: Key Differences Read More
  • Are You a Caregiver? What You Need to Know About Estate Planning Read More
  • How Does Divorce Affect Your Estate Plan? Read More