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  • Gabriel B. Lenhart

Common Mistakes in Benefit Planning

Whether performing estate or retirement planning, two scenarios should be at the heart of your discussion: what happens to your estate when you pass away, and what will happen to your estate when your health declines and you need to rely on family and friends for assistance. Creating an estate plan can help protect your estate and ensure that your property passes according to your wishes in the event of your death.

Most seniors today ignore the greatest risk to their estate: the high costs of long-term care. According to the U.S. Department of Health, over 70% of the population over the age of 65 will need some type of long term care and more than 40% will need nursing home care. Unfortunately, most people do not have insurance coverage for long term care and, if care is needed, their savings is at risk of rapid depletion and even the family home may be in jeopardy from creditor liens.

Fortunately, through proper planning, solutions are available to protect assets for your loved ones while still enabling access to benefit programs such as a tax-free VA pension or MediCal assistance that will help to provide for your catastrophic care needs while serving to protect your estate.

Listening to laymen advice and myths concerning these benefits and the planning involved as well as the failure to obtain early advice from an experienced estate and benefit planning attorney is all too common. These types of mistakes often result in depletion of the estate and limited options for cost effective planning.

Additionally, failure to review your supporting documents such as financial powers of attorney and advance health care directives often result in the need to file for a costly conservatorship down the road when the individual is no longer able to sign legal documents.

Recently, businesses like Legalzoom have enabled individuals to create their own estate plan online at a fraction of the cost an attorney would charge. As these documents come to light following a loved one’s passing, it turns out that they were executed incorrectly, did not contain the necessary provisions, and/or were never funded. This type of mistake can be devastating to your family: it is penny wise but pound foolish.

These mistakes are just the tip of the iceberg as there are a plethora of other mistakes I encounter on a daily basis due to poor planning. By enlisting an experienced and skilled attorney to help guide your family in protecting your estate and planning for changed circumstances down the line, you can be assured that you will be protected when you need it most.

Please note that this article is a general summary of law and omits many important details, footnotes, and caveats. It is no substitute for legal advice from a lawyer based on your particular circumstances.

For more information or to speak with a lawyer, please call us at (530) 268-5485, visit our website,, or send us an email at

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