It can be very difficult to plan for events like aging, incapacitation, and death, but not planning for these events can cause families burden and grief and might also cost family members a significant amount of time and money.

It is estimated that over 50% of Americans haven’t created a will. The Future File business also estimates that less than 10% of the U.S. population has a complete legacy and wishes planning system.

Planning for difficult and unexpected events is vital but can often be difficult to navigate. Here are the top estate planning mistakes to avoid, according to experts in the industry:

When a second marriage joins two families together, it is often a time for celebration as two families come together and become a new family unit. However, it might also lead to inheritance fights, particularly between stepparents and children. A good estate plan is important to help avoid these quarrels.

Complications can arise especially when two people who marry both have children from previous relationships. It is common for married people to leave everything to their spouse. In these cases, children from the previous relationship may now see their inheritance go to their stepparent, who may then leave it to their own children. If additional children are added to the relationship, things can end up being even more complicated.

Each couple needs to redo their estate plan before getting remarried. Here are some ideas for reducing or eliminating disputes before they occur:

An increasing number of Americans are including pet care in their estate planning. Currently, 67% of U.S. households own at least one pet, and many people now consider long-term planning for them just as important as they would for two-legged family members.

Fidelity Investments has tips on its website for pet owners, advising them to be upfront about what is needed to care for their pets and stating that once a caregiver has been identified, a plan should be put in place detailing what needs to happen immediately after the death of the owner.

Some questions you may want to explore include the following:

In life, there are many important milestones. For many people this list of milestones includes graduations, marriage, children, opening a business, and retiring. As we move through life, it is important to plan for the next step as well as to plan for the unexpected.

For some people, especially younger families, estate planning is much like an insurance policy – hopefully it isn’t needed, but it is comforting to have in place. For others, estate plans are made with specific goals in mind, such as to ensure the smooth transition of a business, protect family members from creditors, or minimize tax consequences.

Here are important estate planning-related projects to consider at various points of life:

Retirement means different things to different people in terms of both the experience and the age at which retirement begins, and this life change can cause a wide range of emotions – from fear and anxiety to excitement and joy.

During this often emotional time of transition, it is important to make sure your financial matters are in order. Creating a solid financial plan and creating and organizing important legal documents are essential to help ensure your personal, financial, and health wishes are carried out the way you want. The management of your estate begins with working with an expert to help give you greater control, privacy, and security of the legacy you have built.

Listed here are important documents you need to get started:

Probate is an important legal mechanism that dictates the distribution of assets after a person’s death, specifically within a probate court and with a probate judge presiding over proceedings.

Surviving families and other interested parties usually trigger a probate process to cover issues relating to the deceased individual’s estate settlement. Interested parties typically hire a lawyer to represent their interest as well. In many cases, the estate pays for the legal fees with a fund set aside to handle probate costs.

How long the probate process takes depends on the quality of the estate planning already in place as well as on the state where the probate process is occurring, but the entire probate process is likely to be completed within six to nine months, according to the American Bar Association. It isn’t always a clean and efficient process, but it is a legal way to properly dispose of an individual’s property after their death with a stamp of approval from a probate court.

The rise of bitcoin as well as other virtual currencies associated with blockchain technology (known as cryptocurrencies) has created a number of new millionaires and raises new questions in the legal community when it comes to addressing cryptocurrencies in estate plans.

The Internal Revenue Service classifies cryptocurrencies as property for tax purposes, so owners of cryptocurrency may stipulate the disposition of their cryptocurrencies in their estate planning documents. However, the difficulty lies in determining how to enable the transfer of cryptocurrencies after the testator’s death without putting the security of the cryptocurrency holdings at risk during that person’s lifetime.

Cryptocurrencies are effectively bearer instruments that are accounted for in “wallets” on a decentralized blockchain. A cryptocurrency wallet is a software program that stores access credentials and interacts with blockchains to enable users to send and receive virtual currencies and monitor balances. Therefore, whoever knows a wallet’s access credentials (the private key) has access to the cryptocurrency in the wallet and can transfer the cryptocurrency to themselves. However, if no one knows a wallet’s access credentials, its contents are permanently lost, so it would be unable to be accessed by heirs after the wallet owner’s death.

An increasing number of our day-to-day activities are moving online. Whether financial, social, work, or leisure, all aspects of our lives have a growing presence on our computers or the internet. Because of this, smart estate planning should include addressing digital assets.

Historically, estate planning consisted primarily of physical and financial assets such as real estate, jewelry, collections, and other physical items – but today, digital assets also needed to be considered.

Planning for administration of digital assets poses unique challenges because online policies regarding this assets are constantly evolving. However, incorporating digital assets into your estate plan as well as setting up a regular process for updating this information are important to ensure your survivors can easily manage these assets and that your wishes for them are fulfilled.

Although nearly all would agree that safe nurse staffing ratios are important and necessary, long term care (LTC) facilities (also known as nursing homes) and skilled nursing facilities (SNF) seem forgotten in the rally for safe nurse-patient ratios on units.

Federal law has few requirements for nurse staffing in long term care facilities, and the federal standards haven’t changed in over 30 years when the Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987 was implemented, requiring these facilities to have the following:

  • A registered nurse eight consecutive hours, seven days a week

If you are a would-be snowbird, it pays to do some financial planning before you take flight.

According to a study by Merrill Lynch, by age 61, many people say they are free to chose where they most want to live. More than a third of the retirees surveyed said that they have already moved and 27 percent anticipate doing so.

Before you start splitting time between two or more states, you have to consider which one you want to be your primary place of residence – also known as a domicile, says John J. Scroggin, an accredited estate planner and partner with Roswell, Georgia-based law firm Scroggin&Co.