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The Most Common Estate Planning Mistake

The most common estate planning mistake actually has to do with accounts that should fall outside of your estate: your retirement and life insurance accounts with beneficiary designations.

Many people just set up their accounts and forget to go back over them with any regularity. But, things change and life happens. It’s not uncommon for people to still have their ex-spouse named as a beneficiary on their retirement or life insurance accounts. Or someone who’s already passed away.

In North Carolina, divorce cuts off inheritance rights between ex-spouses, but it doesn’t have any impact on your accounts with beneficiary designations.

The fix is simple: most plan administrators will have a short form that you have to fill out to change your beneficiary. This should be revisited regularly – at least every 2-3 years and after a major change in your life (divorce, death of a family member, etc.).

If you die with defective beneficiary designations, that account will become part of your probate estate instead of passing outside of your estate.

Author Bio

Paul Yokabitus

Paul Yokabitus is the CEO and Managing Partner of Cary Estate Planning, a Cary, NC, estate planning law firm. With years of experience in estate and elder law, he has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including estate planning, guardianship, Medicaid planning, estate administration, and other cases.

Paul received his Juris Doctor from the Campbell University School of Law and is a North Carolina Bar Association member. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named among the “Best Attorney in Cary” in 2016 and 2017 by Cary News and Rising Star in 2020-2023 by Super Lawyers.

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