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Estate planning mishaps that can cost a family its inheritance

Most New Jersey residents want to provide for their loved ones when they pass away. However, many people make certain assumptions when it comes to estate planning that can ultimately deny a family the inheritance an individual intended to leave behind. Two of these mishaps are failing to plan at all and not changing beneficiary designations on certain accounts and insurance policies.

No one likes to think about his or her own death, but if the goal is to ensure that a loved one receive either a portion or all of an estate, it is necessary. Without an estate plan that includes at least a will, New Jersey law will govern who receives the decedent's estate. Further, a good portion of the estate could go toward taxes instead of to loved ones.

Secondly, even if an individual has an estate plan, neglecting to update the beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and insurance policies could also deny an intended beneficiary of the proceeds. Many people fill out these forms when the account is open, but then they neglect to change them when a major life event occurs, such as a divorce. Regardless of what a person's will or trust says regarding these accounts, the beneficiary designations will govern who inherits the account.

These two mishaps alone can easily derail an otherwise well-intentioned individual. Careful estate planning is the only way to ensure that the people intended to benefit from an individual's estate actually do. Having even a minimal estate plan is better than not having one at all, but it is also important to make sure that there are no conflicting beneficiary designations out there that could nullify a bequest.

Source: dailyfinance.com, "Avoid These Estate Planning Nightmares", Michele Lerner, Aug. 20, 2014

Source: dailyfinance.com, "Avoid These Estate Planning Nightmares", Michele Lerner, Aug. 20, 2014

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