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Common Mistakes in Estate Planning: Learn From Them And Avoid Probate

If you haven’t set up a good estate planning, you could be making the biggest mistake of your life. We don’t like to think about dying, no matter what our age. Many of us tend to put estate planning at the back of our minds - at the bottom of our list.


Many people make mistakes in estate planning, including those you think they have all their assets ‘in order’.

Below are some common mistakes in estate planning that should be avoided, so that the estate and family can avoid conflict and/or probate. An experienced probate attorney can discuss your best options if there are issues with the trust, will, or estate. However, the best option is to meet an attorney prior to avoid these common mistakes and ensure the best solution.



Even if you have a will, chances are you need to update it.  How many changes in your life have happened since you first made out that will?


When singer Whitney Houston died, she updated her will right before the birth of her only child in 1993. That child was 18 when she inherited a portion of her mother’s estate. At 18, the child was dealing with the sudden death of her mother and receiving millions of dollars. Lacking the maturity to handle the inheritance probably led to her early death three years later at age 21. 


Actor Heath Ledger’s will was made long before he had a child. When he accidentally died at a young age, he left his fortune to his parents and sisters. Luckily, his family graciously handed over the estate to Heath’s child saying Heath would have wanted them to.


Whitney could have updated her will, giving her only child small amounts of money for living expenses and larger amounts at specific times such as 25 or 30 years old. She could have set up a trusted advisor overseeing the estate. Heath should have added any child(ren) he may have in the future to his will and included specifics as to when and what they would inherit.  



Trusts can be set up in hundreds of ways and there are approximately 125 different kinds of trusts.


Actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman was adamant his three children not be ‘trust-fund kids’ so he never set up a trust. When he died abruptly, much of his estate went to taxes. When actor James Gandolfini died of a sudden heart attack, more than half his $70 million estate went to state and federal taxes. He had a will, but if he had met with a good tax attorney and set up an estate plan, his estate would have avoided the massive tax bill.


Singer Michael Jackson had a trust set up, but failed to fund the trust. His $600 million estate has been tied up in court since 2009. Actor Marlon Brando also had an estate plan, but according to his housekeeper, Marlon orally said she would inherit his home. She filed two lawsuits and tied up the estate for a long time (she settled for $125,000). Marlon should have included the housekeeper in his estate plan - even if it only said she would inherit twenty dollars. That $20 acknowledgment could have prevented the lawsuits.


Make sure you update any estate plan or will periodically and keep in a safe place. When gold medalist Florence Joyner died, no one knew where her will was. Without that will, her estate remained in probate court for four long years.

Gantenbein Law Firm's wills, trusts and estate planning attorneys are experienced in the complex issues of wills and estate planning. To schedule a consult of your case,c all 303-618-2122. 

If you are currently in probate, Gantenbein Law Firm's probate attorneys can assist with all your best options. For more information, call 303-618-2122.


Avoid probate court by avoiding common estate planning mistakes. To speak to an attorney regarding your wills, trusts or estate plan, call 303-618-2122.

Estate Planning mistakes can be stressful. However, common estate planning mistakes can be avoided, reducing the likelihood of probate.

Whether you are currently in probate, or want to avoid probate, contact the experienced wills, trusts and estate planning attorneys at Gantenbein aw Firm and avoid estate planning mistakes.


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