With many things that you do in life, you can have a second chance if you need one. You can fix mistakes and iron out errors. However, when it comes to estate planning in California, you really don't have that luxury. For that reason, it is very important to look at mistakes that other people have made in order to avoid doing the same things.
The first mistake that people make is choosing estate plan executors who are not competent enough to get the job done. They could put in language that will make it hard for people to actually get their money out of trusts, for example. This has happened for some of the trusts that were set up for the grandchildren of Walt Disney, which has led to a lot of legal issues.
Another mistake is not remembering to go back to beneficiary forms and update them when there is a life change. For example, people who get divorced may have listed their spouse as a beneficiary when they were married, but then they don't remember to alter that after the divorce. Instead of the money going to who they would have wanted, it could go to that ex-spouse or the children could end up in a legal battle over the money and related assets -- all to get what they feel is theirs.
Finally, people should always tell their heirs and beneficiaries roughly what they put into their will. They don't have to give out exact copies, as that can be a mistake, but they do want to mention what they are thinking so that no one is surprised when the will is read.
Source: Investing Daily, "Key Estate Planning Mistakes You Need to Avoid" Bob Carlson, Jul. 24, 2014