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Nurses plan and prepare very well.  No doubt you have considered building an estate plan.  An estate plan  can help you protect your assets and your loved ones after you pass away.  It can also help ensure your medical wishes are followed should you become incapacitated.  You may think estate planning is a daunting task.  An Estate Planning attorney can help nurses prepare a plan that fits your unique situation.  Read on to learn how to find an estate planning attorney and how to avoid common mistakes.


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An estate plan involves legal documents.  These legal documents help ensure your wishes are carried out when you die.  Some estate planning documents help ensure your medical and financial decisions are followed should you become incapacitated.  Common estate planning legal documents include:

  • Last will and testament
  • Revocable living trust
  • Beneficiary designations
  • Advance healthcare directive
  • Power of Attorney
  • Guardianship designations
  • Insurance policies
  • Titles and property deeds
  • Trust Agreements
  • Letter of instruction

An estate plan should include these documents to ensure assets are transferred seamlessly to heirs upon death.  The documents also allow family members to access or control assets if you become unable to do so.  Financial products such as long-term care and life insurance policies are also part of an estate plan documents.  And lifetime annuities, which can help cover long-term costs, may also be included in your plan.

Estate Planning Attorney Documents image on www.drgeorgenecollins.comAnd while you can prepare many of these legal documents on your own, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you customize a plan that fits your goals and unique situation.  Estate planning is complicated.  You may have dependents to plan for.  Your estate may have tax liabilities.  You most likely will name beneficiaries to leave your assets to or to care for your estate.  And you will want to consider appointing a Power of Attorney to help ensure your financial and medical decisions are followed.  These are some of the details for consideration of an estate plan.  Each situation is unique.    An estate planning attorney can help build a plan that fits your goals and wishes.  An experienced attorney can also help you keep your documents current.  This is important with life event changes such as marriage or divorce.

Common Estate Planning Mistakes

Estate planning is complex.  The details must be precise to avoid legal disputes.  Whether you decide to make your own plan or use an estate planning attorney, here are some common mistakes to avoid.

Failing to Plan: A common mistake is failing to plan at all.  Consider what these famous people have in common:

  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Bob Marley
  • Sonny Bono
  • Howard Hughes
  • Abraham Lincoln

If you thought they all died without an estate plan, you are right, according to LegalZoom.  Without a plan, the state will decide how to divide your assets.  And your estate will pay the costs for the state’s decisions.

Not Discussing with Family and Friends:  Nurses know lack of communication can cause errors.  The same holds true for an estate plan.  Share your plan with those who need to know.  Let your family and friends know where to find important documents and the name and number of your estate planning attorney.    Sharing the details of your estate plan in advance will help reduce their stress.

Naming Just One Beneficiary: Naming just one beneficiary can lead to problems if that person passes away before you do.  Consider naming a contingent beneficiary as a backup.

Forgetting about Important Assets: Preparing an estate plan can be a daunting task.  An estate plan contains many types of account documents.  Examples include bank, investment, and retirement accounts, titles and deeds, and personal property inventory like jewelry, art, heirlooms, and collectibles.

Wills that Specify Investments: Wills should not specify investments because the values may change frequently.  An estate planning attorney can help you create a will that outlines how your assets will be divided, without getting bogged down in the details of specific investments.

Not Preparing for Incapacity: Nurses spend countless hours finding next of kin for incapacitated patients who have no advance directive.  Nurses know best that everyone can benefit from appointing a Power of Attorney to carry out medical and financial decisions. An estate planning attorney can help you create important documents like financial and medical Power of Attorneys to help ensure your wishes are carried out.

Not Considering Tax Implications:  Unfortunately, taxes do not end when we die.  Estates pay taxes just like individuals.  Your heirs may need to pay estate tax, inheritance tax, and income taxes out of your assets.  Failing to consider the tax implications of transferring property can lead to unintended consequences.

Putting Your Child’s Name on the Deed to Your Home:  Let’s face it, some adult children are irresponsible.  When you place your child on your deed, you are giving ownership of your property.  This can lead to problems if your child has financial or legal issues.  An estate planning attorney can offer you options for transferring your property.

Not planning for nursing home care: An estate planning attorney can help you plan for long-term care.  This may include advising on buying long-term care insurance or an annuity to cover the cost of care.  An estate planning attorney can also help you plan for Medicaid, should you need it to cover the cost of a nursing home.

Failing to update your estate plan: An estate planning attorney can help you review and update your plan regularly.  Keeping your estate plan up-to-date will help ensure your needs, wishes and beneficiaries stay current.

Tips for Finding an Estate Planning Attorney

To help avoid these common mistakes, consider working with an experienced estate planning attorney.  It is important to work with an experienced attorney you trust.  Here are tips for finding an estate planning attorney.

Ask for referrals: Talk to friends, family members, and colleagues who have gone through estate planning.  Also consider asking professionals such as your Financial Advisor or Certified Public Accountant (CPA).  Word of mouth is often a great source for referrals.

Check Professional Websites:  Some attorneys join professional associations to advance their credentials and credibility.  These professional associations list their members in an online public directory.  Consider these professional online directories to find an estate planning attorney:

Check With Your State:  Most states have a Bar Association.  Check online or you’re your state’s bar association and ask for attorneys who specialize in estate or trust law.


An estate plan is important to protect your assets and loved ones.  An estate plan also protects your medical and financial decisions should you become incapacitated.  Whether you build an estate plan on your own or use an attorney, avoiding these common mistakes can help ensure a solid plan.  Using the tips above to find an estate planning attorney aims to help ease your search.  It is important to find a competent attorney you trust and are comfortable working with.  Also, remember to keep your estate plan up-to-date with your changing life events.

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Georgene Collins

Georgene Collins, RICP®, RN, PhD, MBA is a registered nurse turned Financial Advisor at Airey Financial Group. Georgene helps other nurses take control of their finances and prepare for retirement. Georgene began her career with Airey Financial Group in 2017 after retiring from 30 years in healthcare. Georgene holds the Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP®) designation from The American College of Financial Services. She holds health and life insurance licenses and a long-term care certificate in Indiana and Illinois. Georgene is a Registered Representative and Investment Advisor Representative and has earned the FINRA Series 63 and 65 registrations.