Did you ever know someone who went to the doctor, got a prescription and then failed to take it? A lack of follow-through like this is cited as the reason that most estate plans fail according to one survey of estate planners.

The mechanics of a living trust

In addition to creating a living trust with an attorney, the trust must be funded. This means that all the assets that you wish to protect from probate should be transferred into the living trust. From that point forward, the trust owns the asset. In a revocable living trust, you would appoint yourself to be the trustee along with a trustee who will take over at the time of your death or incapacity.

As the trustee, you still have the ability to buy or sell assets for the trust and fulfill your obligations. The advantage that a living trust provides is the ability to avoid probate.

The other common pitfall

Other important estate documents such as powers of attorney and advanced health care directives are usually created as part of an estate plan. Those individuals you name in these documents need to be aware that they have been chosen to serve in these roles, and they should know where to obtain the documents.

Do not throw all the paperwork in a file cabinet or safe and expect everything to turn out OK. All family members should be aware of your choices and know how to find the documents when the time comes. You can prevent unauthorized access by storing them in a safe deposit box at your bank or with your attorney.

An estate planning professional who creates your documents can only take your estate plan so far. For it to be executed successfully, you must do the additional legwork necessary to ensure its success. An estate planning attorney may be able to guide you through the entire process.