Family members who are considering updating their estate administration plan should consider the holidays as a great time to ask for relatives’ opinions and preferences. Getting together over the holidays can provide an excellent opportunity to revise documents to ensure that the small details are in order for the inevitable.

Probate attorneys say they encounter a few common mistakes among a variety of estate plans, primarily because clients do not realize they will be problematic. Remember that your name must appear in exactly the same format on all legal documents, for example. If you are known as Tom Smith on one document and T.R. Smith on another, your family members will have to take time to prove that you are the same person. Always use the same name, birth date and Social Security Number on all estate planning documents.

Next, be sure that you have established plans for your real estate holdings in various locations. If you own property in multiple states, you will face probate action in each unless you have put trusts and other tax shields in place to protect your holdings. Your heirs will thank you for making the process easier.

Make sure that you are also keeping paperwork current. This is especially true if you suffer from a degenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s. Sorting out the paperwork for yourself and your spouse is nearly impossible if the documents are not constantly updated. Be sure that you have all the documents related to your spouse’s retirement and estate plans, as well.

Finally, be sure that you bequeath jewelry and specialty items to certain people before relatives begin having emotional reactions to your decisions. You can give relatives the jewelry before you pass away in order to avoid meltdowns about claiming the family jewels. This same decision applies to specialized items such as tools and collections, according to experts.

Consulting your relatives about their preferences while you are all together at the holidays can make your estate planning much smoother and simpler.

Luis E. Barreto