While materialism isn’t a good thing, you’ve worked hard for your possessions. You don’t want to put your assets at risk. One way to prevent putting them at risk is to make sure that you are able to avoid getting into situations where they could be lost. In this article, we will discuss the top ten ways, in no particular order, to put assets at risk (and how you can avoid them).
1. Lack of Insurance
Insurance, as the old saying goes, is one of those things that you don’t know how much you need until you need it. When you want to protect your assets, you need insurance. Even if it isn’t the double-decker, platinum policy, a solid, practical insurance plan will work wonders. When deciding the type of insurance you want, look at the type of asset and the risks involved. Do your research into various policies and insurers, and you will be able to find the best price. You’ll be happy you have it.
2. Dying Intestate
A common way to lose your assets it to die intestate, which means that your assets are given first to your creditors, and then to your family. Dying without a will subjects your estate to probate, and your estate is carved up in a way that you likely would not prefer had you been able to make a choice. Making a will is an excellent way to keep your assets within the family, as is creating a trust.
3. Probate Battles
Probate court is where your estate is divvied up by a judge. Probate battles between family members, creditors, and beneficiaries occur all the time. Really, half of the time spent in probate court involves an argument of some sort. And, your estate and values won’t necessarily come out the winner. Avoid probate by ensuring that your estate plan is in good shape.
4. Attempting to Make Your Will Yourself
It’s tempting to just want to write down everything you want to have happen, sign the will, and be done with the whole estate planning thing. However, the law is tricky and complicated. There are a million and one ways to torpedo a will and totally get the intentions of it wrong. Asking a lawyer for help is the best way to ensure that it is done properly.
5. Business Considerations
Hundreds of thousands of words could be written on the business considerations behind protecting your assets. However, there’s no need for that in this article. Make sure that you are fully aware of the liability of your assets in relation to your business. How limited is your liability in the event that your business is sued? Will you be exposed personally to lawsuit costs? If you know this information and are happy with it, then that is a good thing. If you’re unsure, this is something you’ll want to check out.
6. Picking the Wrong POA
You know your family, and you likely know who you would and would not want as a power of attorney. Always double check to ensure that that is your correct intention. If you have a POA in your estate plan now, make sure that that is still who you want. A less-than-ideal POA can be very problematic.
7. DIY Legal Work
Similar to one of the ways listed above, the unwise nature of DIY legal work extends to anything requiring drafting of a legal document. Even if the site you’re looking at offers a template, there are all too many ways to include a wrong term or end up with something totally different than what you want. The headache you’ll be spared by doing it properly the first time is the main reason why you should go to a lawyer first.
8. No Umbrella Insurance
Umbrella insurance is the Cadillac of insurance in a lot of cases. If you have the extra money and want to get umbrella insurance (which is insurance that goes beyond the liability of your home), you should definitely do so.
Ex-spouses all too often have places in your estate plan that they likely should not have. If you’re divorced and haven’t changed your estate plan to reflect that, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your ex will get your things. However, it’s a better idea to not have them in there. Make sure to change your will or revoke a trust (if possible) if that doesn’t reflect your current relationship.
10. Put It in Writing
Last but not least, put stuff in writing. If you’ve made a verbal promise to a relative about your estate plan, that might not be good enough. Put your intentions in writing, and an estate planner will help you do so.
These ten asset protection mistakes are not the only ways to risk your assets, but they are the most common. Watch out for the hidden pitfalls, and you will be able to avoid them. Knowing the risk is the first step to avoiding it.