Ten Common Estate and Funeral Planning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

senior couple estate planning

Estate and funeral planning are among the best New Year’s resolutions anyone can make.

They reduce the burden for grieving family members and can smooth out the tangled finances that make times of loss even more challenging. But as wise as it is to make funeral and estate plans in advance, they can be fraught with blunders that ultimately create additional headaches. Here are ten common mistakes to consider when tackling estate and funeral planning.   


Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid


Failing to update your plan
It’s not uncommon for people to create an estate plan then pat themselves on the back and toss their documents into the filing cabinet, never to look back again.  What they don’t understand is that estate planning is not an event but a process.  As life circumstances change, your estate plan should be modified too.  Plans should be reviewed at least every five years and with every major life change—such as the birth of a child, a move, or a divorce.   


Selecting an inappropriate trustee 
The trustee is the fiduciary you choose to manage your trust and distribute your assets according to your wishes. Sometimes people do not put enough thought into the person they select as their trustee. They may choose the older child simply “because they are the oldest” or a family friend because “we’ve known him forever”.  You should never choose a trustee solely because they are the oldest, you’ve known them the longest, or because you think they’re “nice.”  Being a trustee can be a hard job.  Trustees must keep impeccable records and be beyond reproach ethically. They sometimes are called upon to make tough choices in the midst of clamoring beneficiaries.   


Failing to plan for incompetence
A will or trust is designed to distribute your assets upon your death.  However, a comprehensive estate plan will plan for much more than what happens when you die.  Equally important to your will or trust are the documents that plan for potential incapacity, i.e. an emergency situation in which you become incompetent and are unable to direct your own affairs or health care decisions.  Documents such as a durable power of attorney, living will, and health care power of attorney is essential to a complete estate plan and is just as important as a will or trust.  


Overlooking digital assets 
So you’ve accounted for all your assets, liabilities,  and beneficiaries.  Did you remember to include your digital assets?  This includes any documents, pictures, or other information you may have stored in the cloud or on a computer.  Have you considered what you would like to happen to your social media accounts? Along with your estate planning documents, be sure to include a list of all your digital accounts along with their passwords.


Do-it-yourself estate planning  
Estate planning is a highly specialized field with many solutions to varied individual needs.  The laws surrounding estate planning are rapidly changing and what might be an acceptable method of estate planning in one state may be completely invalid in another. Do not attempt to undertake something as complex as estate planning on your own. Invest in the knowledge of an experienced estate attorney.   


Funeral Planning Mistakes to Avoid


Not asking questions

The grief that comes with a loss can feel overwhelming. Understandably, it can cloud awareness and judgment, and it may prevent the bereaved from fully exploring their options. Whether you're planning a funeral in advance or after a death has occurred, it’s important to ask questions about the service and disposition prior to signing any documents. This is where an experienced funeral director and a reputable funeral home can be invaluable. Quality funeral providers will be happy to answer all of your questions and will never make you feel rushed as you make your arrangements. They should take the time to understand the type of service you desire and willingly suggest appropriate options to help you arrange a meaningful, personalized ceremony that suits your needs.


Forgetting that remembrance events are also for the living

Funerals, memorial services, celebrations of life, and other rites of passage are central to the grief journey. They provide opportunities for those left behind to gather, pay their respects, find closure, and move on. These commemorative events play an important role in comforting the living. This is important to remember when planning a funeral because it can be an arduous, time-consuming process. Knowing that your efforts are valued and meaningful can provide an important perspective at a challenging time. 


Basing decisions solely on price
Many times, families gathering information on funeral costs make a decision because of an attractive price. While it is very important to stay within a predetermined budget, it is also important to completely understand exactly which services are offered and which ones you really want. While making this decision, be sure to consider the trustworthiness of the funeral home, the quality of the facilities, and the experience of the staff.


Failing to consider the entire service in your planning

This is your opportunity to outline virtually every detail of your funeral or memorial service, such as:

  • Choose burial or cremation
  • Select the type of casket or urn you’d prefer
  • Choose the type of service you want
  • Select a funeral home
  • Designate pallbearers
  • Choose the music and readings for your service
  • Indicate your preferences for the repast


Expecting grief to end with the funeral

The pain associated with the loss of a loved one never goes away completely. In time, it becomes less severe but it serves as a reminder of how deeply we cared for the individual who passed away. Although the grief process is different for everyone, it’s never easy and it won’t abruptly end with interment because love lives on. The experienced, compassionate professionals at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services help grieving families access quality aftercare resources, including bereavement counseling, support groups, and therapy options.

Failure to do estate planning and funeral planning is probably the most common mistake. Planning ahead relieves the burden on your loved ones at a difficult and emotional time. It also gives remaining family members the direction and guidance they need.


The caring staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is here to help you make the most informed choices and assist you with every aspect of your funeral planning needs. Please reach out to us with any questions or if you would like additional information.


About Evan W. Smith Funeral Services: Since 2009, residents of Wilmington, Dover, and the surrounding Delaware community have relied on the caring staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services to help them through their darkest hours. Family-owned and operated, the company offers an array of elite funeral care services, including traditional funerals, cremations, memorials, pre-planning, and more. With decades of experience in caring for families from all cultural backgrounds and diverse walks of life, Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is committed to creating memorable, uplifting experiences that always exceed expectations. For more information, please visit www.ewsmithfs.com.

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