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November 24th, 2022 |

A Few Overlooked Issues Haunt Many Christians’ Estate Plans

By Attorney Alan L. Spiegel, Jr. The Mclario Firm

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Proverbs 13:16 – “In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly.” 

As a Christian attorney specializing in estate planning, I am blessed to assist hundreds of families consider and complete their estate plans each year.  As a Christian working at a Firm that has served Christians for generations, I am even more blessed to help Christians steward their assets for the glory of God and for the benefit of family members and charities on a regular basis.  After almost twenty years of assisting individuals with their plans, I have noticed a few oversights that have the potential to prevent a Christian from distributing his or her assets according to his or her Biblically-informed wishes. 

Please review the list of five oversights below to be sure you aren’t missing the same information as so many before you.  If any apply to you, seek the remedy as soon as possible. 

  • Oversight: Your Plan is Out of Date. 

If you have not met with an Christian estate planning attorney to review your estate plan in the past seven years, it is very likely that your estate plan is out of date.  Laws have changed, relationships have changed, organizations have changed, and your wishes have changed.  There may be ways to simplify your estate plan as compared to how it was originally set up.  There may also be reasons to add provisions that were not needed or envisioned when it was last revised. 

Remedy: Make an appointment for a review of your estate plan with a qualified attorney. 

  • Oversight: Your Account Beneficiaries Don’t Match Your Estate Plan Beneficiaries. 

Many Americans have wonderful estate planning documents prepared by qualified estate planning attorneys, but then adjust beneficiaries after the fact without considering how those beneficiary changes will update the distribution of their assets at death.  In fact, beneficiaries (also known as TOD or POD designations) usually trump trust or will beneficiary designations, so they need to be monitored and adjusted as part of your estate planning process. 

Remedy: Bring a list of all of your payable-on-death beneficiaries to your estate update meeting. 

  • Oversight: You Did Not Name Charities In Your Estate Plan. 

Many people feel that they don’t have enough money to include a charity in their estate plan and assume that their children will make charitable gifts with the money they inherit from their parents.  Unless car and boat dealerships are considered charities (they are not), this is very rarely the case.  The discussion and preparation of your estate plan is the right time to consider which charities would best utilize your assets when you are enjoying your treasures in heaven.  

Remedy: Confirm that charities are part of your estate plan when you discuss it with your estate planning attorney. 

  • Oversight: You Gave the Wrong Assets to Charities in Your Estate Plan. 

Many individuals who prepare their own documents or who hire unfamiliar attorneys or other professionals to prepare estate planning documents make the mistake of mis-allocating property.  Based on tax laws, logistics and other considerations, some property is better suited to charities, and some property is better suited to individuals. 

Remedy: Be sure to provide your estate planning attorney with a thorough list of your assets at your estate plan meeting. 

  • Oversight: Your updated some of your forms with non-attorney-prepared documents. 

Many clients who have taken the time and invested the funds necessary to prepare a proper estate plan decide that “minor” changes to the plan can be handled on their own or with documents found on the internet or at a clinic waiting room.  While it is incorrect to say that those documents never do what they are supposed to, the risk of having documents that are incorrectly prepared and executed is greatly increased.  As with many professions, the value of meeting with a qualified attorney is often underestimated because people don’t know what they don’t know. 

Remedy: Invest in professional advisors to do professional-quality work. 

The common mistake in all of these mistakes, as you have seen, is a failure to seek counsel in an area fraught with potential pitfalls.  We are stewards of God’s resources while we are here, and we need to take that obligation seriously by hiring professionals to help us steward them best. 

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