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Visalia, CA Estate Planning Blog

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Ten Most Common Estate Planning Mistakes: Part Five of Five

This is the final installment of our five-part email campaign to get the word out identifying the ten most common mistakes regarding guardianship nominations made by parents in estate planning. If you have been following this campaign, then congratulations! You now know the most important do’s and don’ts that will benefit a young family when planning for their estate. But even if you haven’t been with us since the beginning, we’ve got you covered: (for #1-2 click here, #3-4 click here, #5-6, clickety, #7-8, clickety-click).  

Our core subject: What would happen to the kids if something happened to you? You now know how important attention to detail is when developing your estate plan, and you know there is much more to consider than most planners advise. It is often the simplest, most obvious-seeming considerations that are missed when guardianship planning is undertaken. And you know that I am here to help you avoid the 10 mistakes I have identified; with careful planning tailored specifically to you, and the ones you love. (Oh, and did I mention that I will do this for you young parents at no cost! Please read on…)

On to the final two mistakes!

Mistake #9:  The ninth mistake is not using a stand-alone guardian nomination document, but rather, putting limited instructions in a Will. When planning for minor children, one of the things I stress is the creation of a stand-alone guardianship nomination. I do this because such a document makes it easier and clearer to identify and address all the details we have been talking about. As we’ve discovered, it is identifying your wishes, your beliefs, your preferences, your choices, your parenting plan for your children in a guardianship nomination document, providing details for your chosen guardian to pass on to your children. And so I prefer to create the document that deals exclusively with those details as a way to honor your legacy.   

Mistake #10: The tenth and final mistake I have identified is having no clear instructions for caregivers or guardians. I can see no reason not to be completely thorough when planning a guardianship nomination. Think about all the decisions you make for your child’s well-being every day; there are hundreds! And though you can’t use guardianship planning to legislate every minute of your child’s life, there are some very important markers that are worth outlining for your chosen guardian, i.e.; your customs, traditions, religious beliefs, education preferences, arts, literature, music…etc. It is okay to be specific.  

I understand that people avoid thinking about elements of estate planning such as naming guardians, deciding on beneficiaries and division of estates, etc., primarily because this involves facing our mortality. Thinking about death. Not fun! So we wait until disaster strikes, like illness. Or, worse, we completely blow it, and face an unexpected death, and leave loved ones to deal with the harsh and public process of court probate. So, really, death without planning is worse than taking a moment now and thinking it through. Putting in place the protections that are available through proper and comprehensive estate planning is responsible. It is liberating. It provides peace of mind. At our office, we respect the seriousness of the issues at hand, but we lighten it up! We strive to make it fun. Our comprehensive estate plan includes “goodies” such as: a ceremonial signing wherein we “tie” the will (an old-school process we are bringing back as a gesture of respect). We provide an executive binder holding all documents, a personalized flash drive holding pdf copies of all executed original documents, a memorial planner, and we place all items in a tote bag, printed with custom artwork designed by Katherine Desrochers, and inspired by the poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson “The Key To A Successful Life.”  (click here for more on that poem and our philosophy). 

To all young parents and those who care about them, thank you for letting me share these 10 mistakes with you. I hope that this has been informative for you, and inspirational in helping you plan your estate around your most valuable asset of all: your family. 


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Located in Visalia CA, Joan A. Watters, Esq. Attorney at Law assists clients throughout the Central Valley of California with various estate planning and elder law. Areas include but are not limited to Visalia, Exeter, Tulare, Hanford, Bakersfield, Lemoore, Three Rivers; and the surrounding counties of Tulare, Kings, and Kern.



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220 South Mooney Blvd., B, Visalia, CA 93291
| Phone: 559-635-1775 | 800-403-5029

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