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The 101 Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes


Praise for The Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes

"Herbert Nass has written an accessible and comprehensive guide to estate planning—something everyone should not only think about, but know about."
—Donald J. Trump, Chairman and CEO, The Trump Organization

"The 101 Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes is an invaluable guide for all taxpayers as well as their professional advisors. Every individual in 2009, whether they are subject to estate tax or not, needs to review their estate and financial plan. Learning from the mistakes of others is the best road map as to what not to do!"
—Sidney Kess, tax expert, Chairman, Tax Hotline

"Herb Nass has written a valuable primer telling both lawyers and laypersons, in a witty and clear style, the numerous mistakes to avoid in estate planning."
—William D. Zabel, Senior Partner, Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP

"Herb Nass is not only a fine writer with a keen knowledge of the fine points of law, but he is also something of a literary good Samaritan. He has previously taught us all about wills. Now he solves the problem every person faces—what, when, and how to leave everything behind after that final exit, and how to avoid mistakes when doing it."
—Rex Reed, The New York Observer

Trust and estate lawyer to the stars Herbert Nass offers essential guidance on setting up an estate plan and avoiding many of the common pitfalls

In The 101 Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes, author Herbert Nass, an estate planner for some of today's most famous celebrities, offers an entertaining look at what not to do when setting up an estate plan or administering an estate. By examining the mistakes made by some of the most well-known celebrities—from Bob Marley to John F. Kennedy Sr. and Jr.—this book will guide you in creating a successful estate plan and help you avoid many of the common pitfalls associated with the process.



Chapter 1 The Single Biggest Mistake – Not for the One Certainty in Life…Death.

Mistake # 1: No Estate Whatsoever.

Mistake # 2: Out-of-Date Wills.

Mistake # 3: Losing your Will.

Mistake # 4: Do-It-Yourselfers and Handwritten Wills.

Mistake #5: Not Signing Your Will Because You Physically Can't.

Mistake #6 Not Properly Executed Documents.

Mistake #7: The Best Laid (Estate) Plans.

Mistake #8: Dying Intestate or without a Will.

Chapter 2 Mistakes Involving Tangible Personal Property.

Mistake #9: Nemo Dat Quo Non Habet (Latin for "He Who Hath Not Cannot Give").

Mistake #10: Not Properly Documenting the Delivery and Completion of a Gift.

Mistake #11: Selling Valuable Tangible Personal Property Too Close to Death.

Mistake #12: Bequeathing Tangible Personal Property that You Do Not Own.

Mistake #13: Mentioning Too Many Details in Your Will.

Mistake #14: Not Including Any Details in Your Will.

Mistake #15: Not Providing Properly for the Care of Your Pets After Your Death.

Mistake #16: Leaving Too Much Money for Your Pets After Your Death.

Mistake #17: Giving the Same Tangible Personal Property Item to More than One Person.

Mistake #18: Not Properly Providing for the Disposition of Your Artworks after Your Death.

Mistake #19: Not Providing for Your Tangible Personal Property in a Revocable Living Trust.

Chapter 3 Mistakes Involving Real Estate.

Mistake #20: Not Confirming How Title is Held to Real Estate Before or Right After Death.

Mistake #21: Forgetting that Real Estate Usually Passes Subject to Loans and Mortgages.

Mistake #22: Not Draining the Water Pipes in a Vacant House in Cold Weather.

Mistake #23: Failing to Maintain Adequate Property and Casualty Insurance on Estate Property - Especially Vacant Real Estate.

Mistake #24: Failing to Provide that Children, or others, May Continue to Reside in the Family Home with the Executor's or Trustee's Approval.

Mistake #25: Failing to Provide that Existing Leases Will Terminate on Reasonable Terms After the Death of the Owner of the Property.

Mistake #26: Owning Land, a House or an Apartment in a Foreign Country.

Mistake #27: Assuming That a Co-operative Apartment Building Board Will Always Do What You Would Like It to Do.

Mistake #28: Placing Real Estate in a Trust Without Checking on the Ramifications of Doing So.

Chapter 4 Mistakes Involving Executors and/or Trustees.

Mistake #29: Selecting Only One Executor in a Complicated Estate.

Mistake #30: Selecting Too Many Executors.

Mistake #31: Selecting an Even Number of Executors.

Mistake #32: Selecting Executors with a Conflict of Interest.

Mistake #33: Not Compensating (or Under-Compensating) Your Executors.

Mistake #34: Not Selecting Your Spouse as an Executor.

Mistake #35: Surprising Your Spouse with the Terms of Your Will.

Mistake #36: Not Naming Your Children as Executors.

Mistake #37: Naming Your Children as Executors.

Mistake #38: Naming a Literary Executor in Your Will.

Mistake #39: Naming a Corporate Fiduciary That Can Be Removed by an Individual Fiduciary.

Chapter 5 Mistakes Involving Guardians, Minors or Step-Children.

Mistake #40: Not Naming the Biological Parent as the Guardian of Your Minor Children.

Mistake #41: Naming the Biological Parent as the Guardian of Your Minor Child.

Mistake #42: Failing To Periodically Review Your Choice of Guardian(s).

Mistake #43: Assuming that Your Step-Children Have the Same Legal Rights as Your Biological Children.

Chapter 6 Mistakes Involving Prior Marriages, Prenuptial Agreements and Significant Others.

Mistake #44: Not Taking into Account the Terms of an Existing Separation or Divorce Agreement.

Mistake #45: Entirely Disinheriting Children or Grandchildren Out of Stupidity or Inadvertence.

Mistake #46: Not Taking Your Spouse's Legal or Statutory Rights into Account.

Mistake #47: Putting Your Child in Charge of a Surviving Spouse Who Is Not His or Her Parent.

Mistake #48: Assuming that Your Divorce Automatically Revokes Your Will in its Entirety.

Mistake #49: Not Updating Your Will at the Start of Your Divorce Proceedings.

Mistake #50: Not Respecting the Validity of A Prenuptial Agreement.

Mistake #51: Not Mentioning the Prenuptial Agreement in Your Will.

Mistake #52: Failing to Fund a Revocable Living Trust During Your Lifetime in Order to Avoid Probate.

Chapter 7 Estate Mistakes Involving Tax and Copyright Issues.

Mistake #53: Eliminating Your Residuary Estate because of High Taxes on your Personal Property.

Mistake #54: Not Taking Full Advantage of the Available Tax Exemption Amount.

Mistake #55: Not Having Assets Titled in the Name of Each Spouse.

Mistake #56: Failing to Ascertain if Gift Tax Returns Were Ever Filed.

Mistake #57: Failing to Pay the 5 percent Annual Minimum Distribution Requirement for Private Charitable Foundations.

Mistake #58: Not Having a Buy-Sell Agreement in a Closely Held Business, Partnership or Limited Liability Corporation.

Mistake #59: Failing to Title Appreciated Real Estate in the Name of the Spouse More Likely to Die First.

Mistake #60: Separating the Copyright Interest from the Work of Art Itself That Is Bequeathed to a Charity.

Chapter 8 Estate Mistakes Involving Disgruntled Friends and Family.

Mistake #61: Lack of a No Contest or In Terrorem Clause in Your Will.

Mistake #62: Using A One Dollar No Contest/In Terrorem Clause in Your Will.

Mistake #63: Using a Codicil Instead of a New Will.

Mistake #64: Impulsively Changing Your Will By Whipping Out a Quick, "Down and Dirty" Codicil.

Mistake #65: Not Contacting the Attorney for the Beneficiary of a Will When Trying to Settle a Dispute with the Attorney for the Executor.

Mistake #66: Requiring Survivorship by a Certain Number of Days.

Mistake #67: Not Including Your Long-Time Secretary or Assistant as a Beneficiary in Your Will.

Mistake #68: Entirely Disinheriting Children or Grandchildren Out of Anger or Vindictiveness.

Mistake #69: Failing to Mention the Names of the Heirs You Intend to Disinherit in Your Will.

Mistake #70: Directing That a Specific Attorney or Other Advisor Be Hired by Your Executor.

Mistake # 71: Not Taking Advantage of a Qualified Disclaimer within Nine Months of Death.

Mistake #72: Offering Too Large an Amount at the Outset of Negotiations.

Mistake #73: Arguing with Your Attorney about Legal Fees.

Mistake #74: Fighting With a Lawyer with "Criminal" Clients.

Mistake #75: Having Your Former Mother-in-Law Own a Life Insurance Policy on Your Life.

Mistake #76: Not Getting the Original Will Back from the Person Replaced as an Executor.

Chapter 9 Mistakes Involving Funerals, Burials or Cremation.

Mistake #77: Not Appointing Someone to Make Burial and Funeral Arrangements.

Mistake #78: Spending Too Much on a Funeral or Burial.

Mistake #79: Providing Overly Detailed Funeral and Burial Instructions in Your Will.

Mistake #80: Prepaying for Your Funeral, or Not.

Mistake #81: Directing That There Be No Funeral or Memorial Service.

Mistake #82: Losing the Deed for your Cemetery Plot.

Mistake #83: Directing that Your Bodily Remains or Ashes Be Buried or Scattered in an Illegal Manner.

Mistake #84: Directing that your Pet’s Remains Be Buried Together with Yours.

Mistake #85: Getting Too Religious in Your Will.

Chapter 10 One of a Kind Mistakes by Celebrities and Icons.

Mistake #86: Not Making Charitable Gifts in Your Will When Your Sons Are the Heirs to the British Throne.

Mistake #87: Mentioning the Name of a Lawsuit Involving You in Your Own Will.

Mistake #88: Leaving Your Estate to an Older Person Outright and Not in Trust.

Mistake #89: Leaving It All to Your Girlfriend Who Has a Drug Addiction.

Mistake #90: Making a Bequest with Politically Incorrect or Racist Strings Attached.

Mistake #91: Not Properly Identifying an Organization that Receives a Bequest.

Mistake #92: Not Providing How to Determine that Your Wife Has Regained Her Sanity.

Mistake #93: Murdering Your Spouse (or Anyone Else).

Chapter 11 Rookie or Boneheaded Mistakes.

Mistake #94: Making a Material Misrepresentation on a Life Insurance Application.

Mistake #95: Not Settling a Dispute When the Downside is much Greater than the Upside.

Mistake #96: Making Handwritten Changes to a Will after it Has Been Signed and Witnessed.

Mistake #97: Acting as a Witness to a Will In Which You are Named as a Beneficiary.

Mistake #98: Removing the Staples from an Original Will.

Mistake #99: Putting Your Original Will In a Bank Safe Deposit Box Which May be Sealed.

Mistake #100: Preparing Only a Videotaped Will Instead of a Written One.

Mistake #101: Owning a Large Amount of Life Insurance in Your Name Individually.

About the Author.