How to Avoid Common Estate Planning Mistakes

How to Avoid Common Estate Planning Mistakes

Estate planning involves arranging the handling of your assets and finances for when you pass away. It involves determining who will inherit your assets, which taxes must be paid, and how to minimize estate and inheritance taxes. In addition to drafting wills and trusts, estate planning entails drafting powers of attorney that enable another person to manage your affairs should you become incapacitated. When done properly, estate planning ensures that your wishes are carried out after your death or illness. Unfortunately, there are a few common estate planning mistakes that people make, which, if left unaddressed, can lead to unwanted problems in the future. Estate planning mistakes include procrastination, failing to regularly update documents, overlooking digital assets, ignoring tax implications, and failing to plan for long-term care and Medicaid.

        1. Procrastination: Start Early, Start Now

It is easy to procrastinate when it comes to estate planning, but waiting can have dire consequences. If you delay or fail to establish an estate plan, your assets may be distributed according to state law instead of your wishes. In addition, if you fail to periodically update your documents, certain elements of your will may become invalid due to changes in tax laws or other legal requirements that you were unaware of at the time you drafted them. If you haven’t updated your will in many years, some of your beneficiaries may never receive the inheritance they anticipated. In addition, procrastination can cause individuals to neglect digital assets such as online accounts and websites, which require specific instructions for their disposition after death.

For an estate plan to function properly and protect those who are left behind, it is crucial that individuals begin creating plans as soon as possible, regardless of their age or financial situation. Working with a qualified estate planning attorney is often advised because they can provide guidance on all aspects of the process, such as taxes and long-term care planning, which are essential components of a comprehensive plan. In addition, seeking professional assistance ensures that every detail is considered while avoiding common mistakes, such as failing to include digital assets or failing to account for future health issues when calculating Medicaid eligibility. Taking action sooner rather than later provides individuals with the assurance that their desires will be carried out as intended.

        2. Failing to Regularly Update Documents

When it is time to put your estate plan into action, failure to routinely update documents can cause significant complications. For instance, tax laws and other legal requirements change over time, so if your old trust does not reflect the current state of affairs, some of its instructions may no longer be valid. This could result in your heirs not receiving what they expected or wished for, causing them unnecessary heartache during an already difficult time. In addition, if you fail to regularly review and update your documents, any changes to your assets or family structure will not be reflected in your plan. This may lead to inequitable inheritance distributions or confusion regarding who is entitled to what portion of an inheritance.

It is crucial to remember that just because you created an estate plan once does not necessarily mean that everything remains valid forever; certain aspects require regular attention and updating as life circumstances and legal requirements change. Working with a qualified lawyer with experience in estate planning in Rocklin, California, can ensure that all pertinent details are taken into consideration. Taking action sooner rather than later provides individuals with the peace of mind that their plans will be carried out as intended during their lifetime and beyond, even if they die or become incapacitated.

        3. Overlooking Digital Assets

Digital assets are often overlooked when establishing an estate plan, which is another common mistake. This includes online accounts, websites, and other electronic resources that necessitate specific instructions after death. Without these instructions, it may be difficult or impossible for family members to access or administer the digital assets of the deceased. In addition, if a person does not record their passwords in a safe and secure location, this could cause problems with accessing any stored data, such as emails or financial documents. In addition to protecting digital assets from unauthorized access after death, having clear instructions regarding what should happen with each form of asset ensures that the individual’s wishes are carried out, as opposed to being left to chance or third-party decisions.

It is important to remember that just because you created an estate plan once does not necessarily mean that everything remains valid forever; certain aspects require regular attention and updating as life circumstances and legal requirements change. To ensure that your wishes are carried out after you die or become incapacitated, it is recommended that individuals review their plans regularly — at least once every few years — and consult with a qualified estate planning attorney who can help identify overlooked areas such as digital assets and provide advice on all aspects of the process, including taxes and long-term care planning, which are essential components of a comprehensive plan.

       4. Ignoring Tax Implications

One of the most frequent estate planning mistakes people make when creating an estate plan is neglecting to consider the tax implications of their assets. Taxes can significantly reduce the value of your estate, so it is essential to know how they impact you and what actions you must take to minimize them. This includes taking into account both federal estate taxes and any state or local taxes that may be imposed on your assets. Individuals ought to inquire about all deductions and credits that could potentially reduce their overall tax burden, such as those related to charitable contributions and family transfers. Additionally, it is often recommended to seek the guidance of a qualified lawyer with experience in estate planning, as they can provide detailed information about potential tax liabilities based on individual circumstances and ensure that every detail is considered.

In addition to understanding current federal and state laws governing taxation, individuals who are creating an estate plan must also consider potential future changes that could have a significant impact if left unaddressed. For instance, failing to take the proper precautions in advance, such as setting up trusts or gifting particular assets before passing away, could result in owing higher taxes upon death than originally anticipated. Moreover, failing to take full advantage of available deductions or credits now may result in significant financial losses in the future when it comes time for beneficiaries to pay taxes on inherited property after your passing — something that cannot be undone once you are gone but can be easily avoided through proper planning and forethought today.

        5. Neglecting Planning for Long-Term Care and Medicaid

Another common mistake many people make when creating an estate plan is neglecting long-term care and Medicaid planning. Without proper planning, it may be difficult or impossible for family members to gain access to the funds necessary to pay for nursing homes and other health care costs associated with aging or chronic illness. In addition, if these expenses are not factored in when determining eligibility for government programs such as Medicaid, individuals may lose out on benefits that could help them pay for a portion of their medical expenses. It is crucial to note that state laws regarding asset protection vary significantly; therefore, working with a qualified estate planning attorney can ensure that all relevant details are considered when making revisions and adjustments, thereby preventing common mistakes.

In addition, if you fail to regularly review your long-term care insurance policies, any changes in coverage will not be reflected in your plan, which could prevent your beneficiaries from accessing much-needed financial assistance after your death. Before signing up for this type of policy, it is crucial that individuals comprehend what services they will provide and how they will be paid for, especially since most plans require premiums even if the insured individual never uses the coverage! Taking action now can give you confidence that your intentions will be carried out during your lifetime and beyond, even if you become incapacitated or ill.

In conclusion, taking the time to properly develop an estate plan now can help ensure that your final wishes are carried out as intended and prevent common mistakes such as overlooking digital assets or failing to account for future health issues when estimating Medicaid eligibility. Working with a qualified estate planning lawyer is often recommended because they can provide guidance on all aspects of the process, including taxation and long-term care planning, to ensure that all potential risks have been identified and appropriately addressed. In addition, routinely reviewing plans — at least every few years — can help keep them up-to-date so that current laws and regulations are considered when making revisions and adjustments. By planning ahead, individuals can feel confident that their legacy will be honored even if they pass away or become unable to care for themselves.

Filippi Law Firm, P.C., is ready to help you with your estate planning needs. Give us a call at (916) 333-7910 or fill out the form at the bottom of this page to get in touch with our office. We offer consultations free of charge. Consultations can be done over the phone, via Zoom, or in person at our office in Rocklin, California. Avoid these common mistakes and work with our top-rated estate planning attorneys. 

You might find this blog article helpful ”What Is the Best Age to Create an Estate Plan?

Important Items to Bring to an Estate Planning Lawyer Consultation

Planning for the future is a smart and responsible initiative that everyone should take. When it comes to estate planning, it is essential that you seek the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney. You can book a free consultation with us at Filippi Law, P.C., here or by giving us a call at (916) 333-7910. Whether you are meeting with your attorney for the first time or reviewing your existing estate plan, being organized and prepared will make the process more efficient. To ensure a productive meeting, it is essential to bring information that may help your estate planning attorney understand your goals and put together a personalized estate plan. This blog post goes over the essential items you should bring to a meeting with an estate planning lawyer.

Bring a valid form of identification, such as your driver’s license or passport, to establish your identity and facilitate the legal process. In addition, bring copies of any pertinent legal documents related to your estate, such as:

  • current wills or trust documents
  • living wills or advanced healthcare directives
  • business ownership documents
  • beneficiary designations for pension plans and life insurance policies
  • powers of attorney
  • marriage, divorce, or prenuptial agreements
  • real estate deeds
  • list of liabilities and debts

Estate Planning requires a comprehensive overview of your financial situation. Bring the following documents to help your attorney understand your assets, liabilities, and financial objectives:

  • bank statements
  • retirement account statements (e.g., 401(k) IRA)
  • Real estate documents (deeds, mortgages, etc.)
  • investment account statements
  • business ownership information
  • documentation of outstanding loans and debts

Planning your estate involves making decisions about your loved ones and beneficiaries. Bring their full names, birth dates, and contact information. In addition, consider providing pertinent documents.

  • birth certificates
  • adoption documents
  • marriage documents
  • divorce decrees
  • social security numbers


Before meeting, jot down any estate planning-related concerns or questions you have. This may include questions regarding particular legal documents, tax implications, or the distribution of assets. Having these questions prepared will allow you to maximize your time with the lawyer and obtain clarity on crucial matters.

Clarify your personal estate planning goals and objectives. Do you have specific distribution preferences for your assets? Which charitable causes would you like to support? By clearly articulating your intentions, your estate planning attorney will be able to construct a plan that aligns with your preferences and assists in achieving your goals.

Meeting with a lawyer who specializes in estate planning is essential to securing your future and ensuring that your wishes are carried out. By bringing necessary documents, information, and questions to your meeting, you can maximize its efficiency and help your attorney create a customized estate plan that reflects your goals. Remember that estate planning is a dynamic process, and regular evaluations with your attorney are necessary to account for changes in your life. With a well-considered estate plan in place, you can rest assured that your loved ones and assets are safeguarded in accordance with your wishes.

Filippi Law Firm, P.C., is ready to help you with your estate planning needs. Give us a call at (916) 333-7910 or fill out the form at the bottom of this page to get in touch with our office. We offer consultations free of charge. Consultations can be done over the phone, via Zoom, or in person at our office in Rocklin, California.

Essential Legal Documents You Need When Your Child Turns 18

Turning 18 is a big milestone for a young person and their parents. It signifies the commencement of adulthood, new responsibilities and rights. As parents, you must ensure that your child is prepared for the legal and financial responsibilities that lie ahead in their adult lives. This preparation is also essential for you, the parent, because without these documents, you will not be able to make any legal decisions on their behalf. You will lose all access to their health, financial, and educational records. At Filippi Law Firm, P.C., our team of attorneys has developed a Young Adult Estate Plan Package at a cost-effective price of $700 that handles these vital documents. 

1. Last Will and Testament: Although it may seem too soon to think about a last will and testament at such a young age, establishing these documents early on is a responsible and wise decision. A last will and testament specifies how your child’s assets, including personal property, bank accounts, and investments, should be allocated upon their passing. It gives them control over their estate and ensures that their wishes are carried out. Having a will in place provides you and your child with peace of mind despite the unsettling thought of mortality. 2. Power of Attorney: Granting power of attorney to someone allows them to make decisions on your behalf. In this case, on your child’s behalf, if they become incapacitated or temporarily unable to manage their affairs, this person can be the parent. This document ensures that a reliable person can represent your child’s best interests if they are unable to do so for themselves. 3. Advanced Healthcare Directive: An advanced healthcare directive, also known as a living will, specifies your child’s preferences regarding medical treatments and end-of-life care in the event that they become incapacitated and are unable to communicate their wishes. This advanced health care directive ensures that their healthcare decisions are consistent with their personal beliefs and values.
When establishing a will, you and your child should discuss:

a) Appointing an executor: This person will manage the estate and oversee the distribution of assets.

b) Identifying beneficiaries: Determine who will inherit their assets and specify the distribution details.

c) Including specific bequests: It should be clearly stated if there are specific items or sentimental belongings they wish to pass on to certain individuals.

Types of power of attorney your child may need:

a) General power of attorney: provides someone with broad authority to be in charge of your child’s financial and legal matters.

b) Limited power of attorney: grants specific powers for a limited time and specific purposes, such as supervising a property or signing documents related to a particular situation.

You and your child must carefully consider who you grant power of attorney to, ensuring that the individual is responsible, trustworthy, and understands the responsibility.

Key considerations for an advanced healthcare directive:

a) Preferences for medical care: specify which medical treatments your child would or would not like to receive under specific conditions.

b) End-of-life decisions: Include instructions on life support, organ donation, and any significant medical interventions.

c) Appointing a healthcare proxy: Designate a trusted individual who will make healthcare decisions on their behalf, ensuring their wishes are carried out.

A health care directive gives your child autonomy and provides clarity to healthcare professionals and family members in emergency situations.

As your child approaches adulthood, it is crucial that you guide them through the process of establishing these necessary legal documents for both of you. The last will and testament, power of attorney, and advanced healthcare directive provide invaluable protection. They will ensure that their wishes regarding healthcare, finances, and end-of-life preferences are respected.

Encourage your child to consult a qualified attorney to create an estate plan. By doing so, you and they will be able to confidently embrace the responsibilities and independence that accompany adulthood.

Top 10 Assets Your Estate Planning Attorney Should Include in Your Estate Plan

  1. Real Estate: This typically includes any property you own, including your primary residence, vacation home, and investment properties. Your estate plan should specify who will inherit your property and how it will be administered after your passing.

  1. Bank Accounts: This includes all of your checking, savings, and money market accounts. You can specify who will inherit these accounts as well as how the funds will be distributed.

  1. Investment Accounts: These include brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, and other investment vehicles.

  1. Life insurance policies: They can provide financial support for your loved ones in the event of your passing.

  1. Business Interests: If you own a business, it is essential to include it in your estate plan. You can determine who will inherit the business and how it will be run after your passing.

  1. Personal Property: This includes valuable items such as artwork, jewelry, antiquities, and collectibles.

  1. Intellectual Property: You can include intellectual property in your estate plan if you own patents, trademarks, copyrights, or any other intellectual property. You can specify who will inherit these assets and how they will be managed following your passing.

  1. Digital Assets: encompass all online accounts and digital property, including email accounts, social media profiles, and online storage accounts. Your estate plan should specify who will have access to these accounts.

  1. Vehicles: This includes any automobiles, yachts, or other vehicles you own.

  1. Firearms: Transferring firearms is no easy task, so making sure your trust is the owner will allow our trustee to transfer them with few issues. 

The purpose of including these assets in your estate plan is to ensure that your wishes are carried out and that your loved ones are cared for in accordance with your wishes. You should specify in your will who will inherit these items and how they will be distributed.

Call Filippi Law Firm, P.C. or fill out the form below to schedule a free consultation. Our experienced attorneys are here to guide you through the estate planning process, ensuring that your family’s future is secure and that your wishes are carried out. 

What is the best age to create an estate plan?

The best age to create an estate plan is at eighteen, but what is the second best time? However old you are right now. The sooner, the better, because an estate plan is essential if you have many or few financial assets.

Here is why:

Estate planning is a crucial tool that allows people to prepare for the future and protect their assets in the event of unforeseen circumstances. Estate planning allows people to guarantee that their wishes for the distribution of their estate, which includes money and property, will be carried out after their passing. Additionally, it provides them with a way to prepare for any future financial or medical needs they may have. Estate plans can protect heirs from creditors and lower the tax obligations they must pay, in addition to giving them peace of mind. An estate plan includes wills, trusts, power of attorney, living wills, and healthcare directives that specify how certain issues should be handled when it comes to your estate after you pass away. You can read about these documents and more here.

Is it possible to be too young for an estate plan?

Simply put, no.

In the event that you become incapacitated or pass away, it may be challenging for family members or other loved ones to access your accounts and property without an estate plan.

An estate plan assures that the people who depend on you will receive the necessary support.

Everyone should think about making an estate plan to prepare for any potential future medical requirements. This includes establishing a health care proxy so that a trusted individual can make healthcare decisions on your behalf.

Additionally, estate planning enables individuals to establish a guardian for minor children in the event that both parents are unable to care for them due to illness, injury, or death.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to estate planning because everyone’s circumstances are unique.

Factors such as:

These factors influence how a person should approach their estate plan. It is essential to consider not only what could occur today but also anticipate potential changes down the road. You may wish to consult with legal professionals who can advise you on your options based on your unique circumstances and goals. From our experience, it is best to create an estate plan, or at the very least a will, as soon as you become a legal adult.

Choosing the Right Attorney

Finding a professional who can assist you in drafting a plan that meets your goals and objectives is one of the most crucial steps in estate planning. The estate planner should have experience creating wills, trusts, and other documents related to end-of-life issues. Additionally, it’s crucial that you feel at ease working with this person because there will be some difficult topics discussed during the process.

Finding an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable about all facets of estate planning can help ensure that your wishes are carried out after your passing and give you peace of mind knowing that, should the unexpected occur during your life’s journey, your loved ones will receive the proper financial support regardless of your age.

At Filippi Law Firm, P.C., we focus primarily on estate planning. You can reach us at (916) 333-7910 to schedule a free initial consultation where you can discuss your estate planning goals with one of our attorneys.

What is power of attorney?

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that grants someone else the power to act in another person’s name. It can be used in a variety of circumstances, such as when a person is unable to handle their affairs or make decisions because they are incapacitated or out of town. A power of attorney usually designates an “agent,” who will subsequently be given the right and responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the principal. Powers of attorney often fall into one of two categories: general POAs or specific POAs. General POAs grant a person broad control over all facets of their personal affairs. Specific POAs, however, are restricted to the specific acts listed in the agreement itself (such as managing investments). You may need one type of power of attorney document or both types, depending on your circumstances.

Creating a Power of Attorney

In the event that you become unable to make decisions for yourself or your family, establishing a power of attorney is essential to safeguarding your interests and those of your loved ones. Consulting with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney like Filippi Law Firm is the first step in establishing an effective power of attorney agreement. They can accurately identify your needs and offer you personalized advice.

A legal power of attorney must fulfill a number of conditions, including being written on sturdy paper, signed by the principal and the agent in the presence of witnesses, being duly notarized, and accurately stating the powers granted to the agent. This guarantees that the agreement is enforceable in court and has legal force.

It’s crucial to appropriately identify the principal (the person granting authority) and the agent (the person receiving authority) when drafting a power of attorney document. The principal should give great thought to who they pick as their agent; this person should be someone dependable who has their best interests at heart. Before signing anything, it’s also recommended for both parties to research any pertinent state regulations surrounding POAs; these may change depending on where you live.

Terminating a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney can be terminated in order to end a contract between two parties. A decision may be made by the principal, who initially gave authority to the agent, that they no longer want someone else to make decisions on their behalf. In this instance, it’s critical that the primary understands how ending a power of attorney will impact them and what needs to be done to ensure its legal validity.

The outcome of a power of attorney transfer depends on whether a new document assigning authority to a different individual has been created. All authority previously provided under an old POA is automatically cancelled and cannot be used going forward without the creation of a new one if there is no new POA in place when the old one expires. Additionally, if local laws allow it, some powers—such as those relating to healthcare decisions—may continue to be in effect after the POA is terminated.

Both parties must be notified of the decision to revoke the power of attorney’s provisions, and witnesses must attest to this agreement. This can take many forms, depending on local legislation, such as signing paperwork or appearing before a witness or court official at least two days before the cancellation goes into effect (in some states). Since cancellation nullifies all prior POA-granted powers and lays responsibility directly on the principal rather than on a third party acting on their behalf, cancellation should only be done in extreme cases.

When a power of attorney is revoked, all rights that an agent may have over specific tasks that fall under its purview are completely eliminated; however, all facets of the power (such as debts incurred while exercising the power) are not necessarily eliminated. Revocation always has to adhere to the procedures set forth by state law; otherwise, legal action may be taken against either person engaged in the creation or revoking of the revoked document(s). Agents should be aware that revocation does not provide complete liability protection.

Powers and Limitations

The scope of a power of attorney document describes the range of actions the agent is authorized to perform on behalf of the principal. In general, it will cover both financial and legal facets of managing affairs, including paying bills, submitting taxes, opening bank accounts, making transfers or investments, managing real estate deals, and even advocating for them in court. However, by specifying specific actions that are prohibited by the terms of the POA (such as selling property), the power can be restricted.

To maintain an agent’s authority under state law, powers of attorney must contain specific limitations. Limitations may include requirements that you obtain consent from a third party before making any significant decisions (this could be your spouse or another family member), that you only have partial decision-making authority over all matters listed in the scope section of the document (e.g., financial decisions), and/or that you can only take certain actions within a certain time frame (e.g., no more than three transfers per month). Additionally, some states need particular precautions for matters like guardianship and end-of-life care when drafting a POA form, so it’s crucial for all parties to be clear on their rights and obligations before signing anything.

Alternatives to a Power of Attorney

A living trust is a legal document that allows an individual to manage their assets and designate how they will be distributed upon their death. A living trust functions after one’s death and can help ensure that property goes straight to selected beneficiaries without going through probate, unlike a power of attorney, which gives authority to another person while the principal is still alive. Additionally, a living trust gives you more control over who has access to certain assets and when; for instance, if you wish to give your children certain pieces of property at particular ages or stages in their lives.

In order to prevent people with disabilities or chronic diseases from losing access to crucial benefits related to these ailments, special needs trusts were created specifically for them. This kind of trust often specifies who receives payments (such as family members or caregivers) as well as how money should be utilized (for medical care/education rather than luxury items). By guaranteeing that any funds set aside are used for services exclusively relevant to the beneficiary’s condition, such as medical costs not covered by insurance policies or government programs, special needs trusts protect against resource depletion.

Finally, it’s critical to comprehend the distinctions between wills and powers of attorney. Both papers give people power over their financial affairs when they pass away, but wills specify how one’s inheritance should be distributed among heirs after death, while POAs largely focus on allowing someone else to act while the person is still alive. Anyone thinking about either document should be aware of what each one entails in order to make an informed choice regarding their future planning. 

POAs are Valuable

Powers of attorney are a useful tool for giving someone control over your affairs while you’re still alive. If a person becomes incapacitated due to illness or injury, a POA can help safeguard their assets and financial interests. To make sure that everything is legally enforceable, it is crucial to comprehend the agreement’s parameters and any usage restrictions before drafting the power of attorney paperwork. In addition, there are other legal documents that offer various sorts of protection in estate planning, such as living trusts and special needs trusts. Last but not least, it should be emphasized that powers of attorney are different from wills in that they normally only take effect after death, whereas POAs provide someone with temporary control over their affairs while they are still alive.

Satisfied Client Stories


I want to thank you Filippi and your law firm I am extremely grateful for all the hard work and all your support and most of all thank you for making me feel like I was important as a client. Highly recommend Filippi Law firm.

Respectfully, R.L


Anyone in need of a great law firm that does Living Trust/ Wills I highly recommend Filippi Law Firm in Rocklin.
My husband and I needed to have a new Trust done and we were very pleased with Jim Filippi.
and his staff. Extremely professional and takes the time to explain everything in detail.
I’m going to be recommending his law firm to all my friends and family.

Susan H.

I highly recommend Filippi law firm. Can’t say enough how much I appreciate all they did for me and my living trust. Jim is very helpful and relieved any doubts I had about trust. Very nice law firm and friendly. Thank you Jim for everything and Courtney as well.

Susan P.

Very Professional service provided. Handled my trust with professional care and left us feeling very confident. Would recommend Filippi Law Firm to all my friends

Bret R.

Jim is a personable individual and all the people in the firm are friendly and professional. Creating my trust was painless and has taken a load off my mind.

Jill V.

We had an outstanding experience with all the Filippi associates we worked with. They were exceptionally professional and friendly. I would highly recommend their services.

John W.