How can I prevent these types of planning disasters?
We believe that the cornerstone of a good estate plan is a revocable living trust. A trust can help avoid the planning mistakes we have discussed. With a revocable living trust, one set of instructions will exist to control the distributions of all of your property. This is because the trust can be - when done correctly - both the owner of all of your property while you are alive (including your home, checking accounts, and investment accounts) and the beneficiary of your life insurance and retirement accounts. Since your trust will be both the owner and/or beneficiary of all of your property, you can be confident that all of your property will be distributed the way you want to those you want.
Planning with a revocable living trust will give you the peace of mind of knowing that your desires will not be disrupted by the haphazard use of property titles and beneficiary designations that could otherwise leave your property to unintended heirs. Since all of your assets will be controlled by the instructions in your trust, your planning goals will be fully met. Your spouse and children will actually receive the portion of your estate that you want them to have. These and other protections are important when planning in a second marriage to protect both your new spouse and the children of your first marriage.