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Five Common Estate Planning Mistakes
Top 5 Surprisingly
Common Estate Planning Mistakes
By Ashley Howard,
Marketing Director of Elder Law Group PLLC


When it comes to Estate Planning, we’ve seen a lot of sad and unfortunate things happen to people. Poorly prepared documents can lead to accidentally disinheriting loved ones, losing family property to the State or creditors, or protracted and upsetting family disputes.


Here are some of the most common mistakes we’ve seen with
bad Estate Plans.

Beneficiary Blunders


This is one of the most common mistakes that people make – not naming a beneficiary and contingent beneficiary for non-probate assets, such as retirement accounts and insurance policies.


This actually happened in my family. My stepdad forgot to update the beneficiaries on his 401k and insurance after he married my mom.


When he passed away suddenly at the age of 55, my step-aunt was still his beneficiary for everything. My mom was lucky – my aunt recognized that with hospital bills and funeral expenses that mom needed that
money and it was given to her with no drama. That’s not always the case for
every family.


Forgetting to change an ex-spouse on your documents can have disastrous consequences for your new spouse. What happens if you lose capacity and your ex
is still has Power of Attorney?


Washington has laws to protect against some of the bad consequences, but not all. For example, an ex-spouse named as beneficiary on a 401K plan may inherit, much to the upset of the new spouse.


Whenever there is a change in life circumstances – a remarriage, or death in the family, check your Estate Plan and other financial documents to make sure that all are up to date.


Not Thinking Through a Well-Intended Gift


I have an uncle that has a severe disability, which qualifies him for government benefits. My grandmother has saved and invested money for years so that when she passes someday, he will have additional support for his care.


Medicaid and other government benefits have resource limits to determine if a person is financially eligible to receive help. In my family’s case, if grandma outright leaves money to my uncle, then he will lose his benefits and have to spend his inheritance before he will eligible for those benefits again.


In situations such as these, it’s generally recommended to set up a Supplemental or Special Needs Trust (also known as an SNT) for the benefit of the family member that is receiving government benefits so as to not interfere with their eligibility. For more information on how SNTs work, check out our previous article, Special Needs Trusts.


Unintentional Disinheritance


This is another extremely common mistake that people make. It’s not unusual nowadays for late-in-life marriages to happen. For many, their Estate Plan only accounts for the immediate aftermath of the death. But what happens to your assets if your spouse remarries after you die?


In this example let’s assume that a couple, Fred and Betty, have basic Wills with no additional protections. Fred and Betty have a daughter, Sue. Let’s say that Fred passes away first, leaving everything outright to his wife. After a while, Betty decides that she wants to marry a new guy – Jim.


If Betty passes away before Jim, her estate (which includes what she had inherited from Fred’s estate) then passes to Jim – the new husband. And when Jim passes away the entire estate likely will then pass to his children, not Sue.


This is called unintentional disinheritance and it is quite common. As with the Beneficiary example before, without any additional planning you rely on the goodwill of others and risk causing familial disputes. Save your loved ones the heartache and consider Asset Protection Estate Planning™ to prevent unnecessary drama.



One of the most harmful things you can do is assume anything when it comes to your Estate Plan.


Assuming that everyone knows your wishes. Assuming your family won’t fight. Assuming that your loved ones know who your doctor, attorney, or financial planner are. Assuming that your kids will have the ability to make healthcare decisions for you if you can’t.


Communicate with your loved ones and make sure that you address anything you are unsure of. That way, if the unexpected happens, they are equipped to help

Not Planning for the Unexpected


A good Estate Plan will plan for contingencies – the big “what if’s” that hang over our heads. What if your spouse’s health suddenly declines? What if your kid gets a divorce? What if you spouse remarries after you are gone? There are a multitude of things that you have probably never even thought about.


An Asset Protection Trust can control how, when, and to who ultimately receives your money. Protections address concerns, such as if your beneficiaries are a danger to themselves. The last thing you want is to give an addict, gambler, or debtor a large amount of cash!


These are just a few of the most common mistakes that we see happen. If you are concerned about any of these issues, contact the team at Elder Law Group

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For more information about Estate Planning Documents everyone needs CALL ELDER LAW GROUP TODAY!

Meet Our Team

Ashley Howard

Ashley joined the team in 2018 and brings with her nearly a decade of marketing experience. She attended Eastern Washington University for Communications and History, and is an avid history buff.

In 2017, Ashley’s stepdad passed away unexpectedly, driving her to help others who experience a sudden loss of a loved one.

When Ashley isn’t writing promos or blogs, she is painting, listening to history podcasts, playing video games with her fiance Dan, and spending time with her family.


2019 Active Living

Active Living Expo
Elder Law Group is a proud sponsor of the 2019 Active Living Expo
Join us at Northern Quest Resort & Casino for 2019 Active Living Expo, a day of fun
for anyone 55+ to learn about living your best life! Travel, health, retirement
planning and more! Get your tickets at https://www.spokane7tickets.com/e/active-living-expo-2019!


Elder Law Group Managing Partner, Lynn St. Louis, will be speaking at this year’s Active Living Expo, Saturday, April 13th at 1:30 p.m., Learn about fundamental estate planning documents everyone should have, why Revocable Living Trusts won’t help
couples in Washington State, and how Asset Protection Estate Planning can help
you prepare for the future.


2019 Senior Times Expo

Senior Times Expo Kennewick

Seniors – Admission to the
Senior Times Expo is FREE!

Come visit Elder Law Group and all the other great exhibitors to learn about products, services and ideas for senior living.

There will be prizes, drawings, samples, giveaways and a Senior Times Hunt for the Treasure contest.

Estate Planning Workshops


Planning ahead allows you to document your wishes and make the best decisions for your future. If you’ve been putting off planning for your senior years, now is the time to take steps to ensure your voice will be heard.

At each workshop, Lynn St. Louis, Managing Partner of Elder Law Group PLLC will cover important Long-Term Care planning issues that impact seniors, the Estate Planning Documents everyone should have, as well as information about qualifying for Medicaid. We will discuss the tools you need to protect your future.


Moran Prarie Library

6004 S Regal St, Spokane, WA 99223

Thursday, April 4th, 2019,
4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.



Shadle Park Library

2111 W Wellesley · Spokane,
WA 99205

Thursday, April 25th, 2019, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Join us for any of these public educational workshops.
Seating is limited – Call (509)
468-0551 or
go to our website to RSVP.
SPOT OR CALL (509) 468-0551


Planning ahead allows you to document your wishes and make the best decisions for your future. If you’ve been putting off planning for your senior years, now is the time to take steps to ensure your voice will be heard.

Join Elder Law
Group for one of our Workshops

At each workshop, an experienced Elder Law Attorney will cover important Long-Term Care planning issues that impact seniors, the Estate Planning Documents everyone should have, and information about qualifying for Medicaid. We will discuss the tools you need to protect your future.

Keewaydin Park Library

405 S Dalton Street
Kennewick, WA 99336

Thursday, April 18th, 2019, 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.





In addition to attending one of our events, you may want to check out one of these wonderful opportunities below!




Research Update with Dr. Keith Fargo
Auditorium 20 W 9th Ave, Spokane WA 99202

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

2:00 –
4:00 PM




Home and Garden Show
Spokane Convention Center, 334 W
Spokane Falls Blvd, Spokane WA 99201

Friday-Sunday, April 19th-21st 2019

Various, see site for times

$10 Adults, $8 Senior/Military 12 and
Under FREE

Click here to read more!





Pasco Aviation Museum Transportation Display

The REACH Museum, 1943 Columbia Park Trail Richland, WA 99352

April 6th, 2019
1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.


Click here
to read more!

Crimson Fest

WSU Tri-Cities Campus,
2710 Crimson Way Center of Campus
Richland, WA 99354 Friday April
12th, 2019
4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. FREE Click
here to read more!

23rd Annual Lakeside Gem & Mineral Club Show

Benton County Fairgrounds, building one, 1500 S Oak Street, Kennewick WA

Tuesday April 13th – April 14th

10:00 a.m.
– 5:00 p.m.

$5 for both days

Click here to read more!


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question or need to find a resource?

Check out our resource page for assistance.


Still not sure
what to do?

Give us a call and let us guide you (509) 468-0551.

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