9 Basic Estate Planning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

In our monthly column from Karen Minogue, Waccamaw Wisdom, we’ll review how to make smart estate planning decisions for a more secure future. Topic suggestions welcome at communications@mywcf.org.

Truth be told, most people put off estate planning and spend more time each year picking out carpeting or a new car. Indeed, estate-planning blunders are costly and common, even among the fiscally prudent. A good attorney or financial advisor will tell you that any number of oversights can leave you vulnerable in the event you become incapacitated. Others can seriously affect your standard of living, adequate financial planning to enjoy your retirement years, compromise the amount your loved ones will inherit when you die, and if you are charitably inclined, can limit your ability to “give back” to charitable causes dear to you.

The following estate planning mistakes can be easily addressed and spare a lifetime of emotional and financial hardship:

1. DOING NOTHING

The biggest mistake you can make is not making a plan at all. Without a legal document providing specific direction, the state will determine how your assets will be distributed, who will administer your estate, and you should care for your minor children. A valid last will and testament can give you a say. If you want to avoid probate altogether, a revocable living trust will help you do that.

2. PICKING POORLY

Think long and hard about whom you select as your durable power of attorney and medical power of attorney. Your life is literally in their hands. Many people forget that estate planning is a two-part process. Half of the documents you draft provide instruction for divvying up your estate after your die. The other half, and potentially more important, outlines directives for handling your finances and medical care if you become disabled. Ask permission before naming someone to these roles.

The person you select may not want the job or feel up to the task. Finally, make sure you sign a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act release, which allows medical professionals to discuss your health with your designated representatives.

3. NOT SETTING ASIDE SUFFICIENT TIME TO THINK AND PLAN

Set aside time to think carefully about your assets, who you want to have them, and to define your objectives in your will. While instructions like “I leave everything to my kids” or “Give it all to charity” may reflect your general wishes, ambiguity can lead to problems after you’re gone. Think through a few steps regarding your family and/or charities you may want to support and work with an attorney trained in estate planning. Think about what should happen to your assets after the death of an heir, especially if blended families are a component of your family.

In the case of charities you may wish to support, consider leaving this portion of your estate to a community foundation to establish a named Designated Fund upon your demise that will forever support the causes that are important to you today. The organizations you name will be supported forever because of your good forethought planning.

4. FAILING TO SIGN A HEALTH-CARE DIRECTIVE

Known also as a “living will,” this document spares your family the emotional angst of having to guess at your wishes when they are already under stress if you are unable to speak for yourself as far as surgery, organ donation, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and “whether to pull the plug, or not.”

5. NAMING THE WRONG FIDUCIARY OR CONTINGENT FIDUCIARY

Even the most well thought out estate plans can be weakened if you’re not careful with the details. For example, do you have an alternate fiduciary named if the person you’ve identified moves away or dies?

6. NAMING THE WRONG BENEFICIARIES OR CONTINGENT BENEFICIARIES

Think about beneficiary designations on your life insurance policies, retirement plans, etc. Do you have an alternate beneficiary named if the person you’ve identified dies? If you specify a portion of your assets to go to your “children,” would that include adopted or stepchildren (both present and future)?

7. NOT COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR HEIRS OR THE CHARITIES YOU CARE ABOUT

Hollywood and many real-life examples (most recently the estate of Michael Jackson and Prince, for example) demonstrate that in real life you want as few surprises as possible, and you want your wishes to be carried out. Keep your loved ones and charities you care above apprised of your wishes. This will help reduce obstacles and make for a better outcome.

8. SETTING IT AND FORGETTING IT

Families can get bigger and smaller, and your feelings toward certain individuals and causes can change over time. As your personal circumstances change, or your family structure changes, so should your plan.

9. PUTTING YOUR WILL AND OTHER IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS IN A SAFE DEPOSIT BOX

Give a copy of your last will and testament to your attorney and family members. Don’t put it in a safe deposit box. The bank is not allowed to release the contents of a safe deposit box to beneficiaries until probate is complete. By then, the funeral is over and assets have been divided according to state law, not according to your wishes.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO NOW

Before making any estate plan, carefully consider all your assets and how you want them distributed. A plan that is clear, specific and up-to-date can maximize the value of what you leave your heirs and/or charity, and minimize confusion, resentment and heartache.

The purpose of this blog is to provide general gift, estate, and financial planning information. Always discuss your plans with your attorney, accountant, or financial advisor.

We make it easy to achieve your charitable goals. Let us help you focus on establishing a lasting giving legacy. To learn more, call Karen Minogue at 843-357-4483 or email her at karenm@mywcf.org.

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WCF Disaster Relief Fund

Through the Disaster Relief Fund, Waccamaw Community Foundation serves as the primary point of financial donations for all disaster relief and recovery efforts in Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties.

Tim Whitten

Tim@mywcf.org

843-357-4483

A native of Alabama, Tim received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Auburn University and a master’s degree in religion from Lenoir-Rhyne University. He brings to WCF a background in grant writing and in disaster recovery most recently serving the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Tim resides in Galivants Ferry with his wife Julie and their four children.

Phillip Anderson

Director

Phillip Anderson is a Senior Vice President & Senior Lending Officer for Asheville, North Carolina-based HomeTrust Bank, serving the coast of South Carolina. Throughout his 22-year banking career, he has served in commercial banking, trust administration, retail banking, and market leadership roles with mid-size and regional banks in South Carolina and Georgia. He has always embodied the community banking model of building strong local relationships and being active in numerous non-profits and promoting their causes.
 
He is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, GA, the Cannon Financial Institute’s Trust School, The Stonier Graduate School of Banking and Wharton Leadership program. He is also a graduate of several Chamber of Commerce Leadership programs over his career.
 
Phillip resides in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, with his wife Mary Beth and daughter Carolina. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, reading, and playing golf.

Ellen Barney Sycks

Stewardship & Communications Officer

ellen@mywcf.org
614-893-7998

Ellen serves the Foundation as its Stewardship and Communications Officer, responsible for communicating with fund holders on a regular basis and providing advice when needed, particularly around fund development as well as relevant field of interest information.

A native of Hillsboro, Ohio, Ellen provides more than three decades of non-profit leadership experience, focusing on creating major gift and planned giving opportunities to support organizations’ programs, special projects and capital campaigns. Ellen received her B.A. in National Security Policy from The Ohio State University. She lives in Murrells Inlet with her husband Jay and their two cats, Mabel and Murray.

Chris Hanna

Director

Chris Hanna is a Senior Broker Associate with Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage. Born and raised in Myrtle Beach, he started in the real estate business in 1993. Chris is a member of the Coastal Carolinas, South Carolina and National Associations of REALTORS and is an active local community member as well, having served on various boards such as the Horry County Zoning Board of Appeals, the Coastal Carolina Athletic Foundation, and Horry County school district Carolina Forest Advisory Board. He is a member of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality and Oceanview Baptist Church. Chris is a graduate of Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach, and he received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of South Carolina at Coastal Carolina in 1992.

Rick Elliott

Director

Rick Elliott is president of his family business, Elliott Realty, one of the most prominent real estate companies in North Myrtle Beach. As a native of Horry County, he has always made giving back to the community a part of his approach to business. Each guest who stays with Elliott Realty is given the option to add an additional $1 per night to their bill to be donated to the Elliott Realty Charitable Community Fund at Waccamaw Community Foundation, which invests in causes throughout the surrounding community. Rick brings this commitment to community philanthropy to his service on the Waccamaw Community Foundation Board of Directors. He has also served as the chairman of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce.



Tyler Easterling

Director

Tyler Easterling is a native of Marietta, Georgia and has resided in Georgetown County since moving to the area in 2002. Tyler is the president and COO of The Brandon Agency, an integrated marketing agency headquartered in Myrtle Beach. She is the current board chair for Coastal Montessori Charter School and serves on the boards of Helping Hands of Georgetown and Young Presidents’ Organization Southern 7 Chapter. She is a member of the 2018 Liberty Fellowship class.

Tyler holds an undergraduate degree in Journalism from the University of Mississippi and a Masters of Mass Communication from the University of South Carolina. She is an active member of Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church and enjoys spending time with her husband, Marshall, and two daughters, Julia and Anne Marshall.



Terri DeCenzo

Director

Terri serves as executive director of Women in Philanthropy and Leadership for Coastal Carolina University (WIPL). She is married to Coastal Carolina University President David A. DeCenzo, and when he joined the university in 2002, she became passionately involved with the life of the university, taking an active role in issues relating to student government and NCAA athletics, among others. Previously Terri has served on the boards of the American Red Cross and the Foundation for Georgetown Hospital System and was an adviser to the Safe Families Initiative that established Family Justice Center of Horry and Georgetown Counties. In 2016, Terri was awarded the Order of the Silver Crescent by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. A graduate of St. Joseph Hospital School of Nursing and Towson University, she spent most of her career practicing in critical care. The DeCenzo’s have four children: Mark (his wife Jen), Meredith (and her husband Ryan Daley), Gabriella and Natalie; and one beautiful grandson, William Mason Evans.


Executive Director, Women in Philanthropy and Leadership for Coastal Carolina University (WIPL)

Dr. Tracy Bailey

Director

Dr. Tracy Bailey earned a Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Language and Literacy at the University of South Carolina in May of 2013. She is a Teaching Associate with Coastal Carolina University teaching Intermediate Literacy Development and Instructional Practices for Early Literacy.

Dr. Bailey began her career in education as a high school English instructor and has worked in both rural and urban educational settings. After realizing the impact professional development and community literacy had on her personal and professional growth, she wanted others to experience this. She is the founder and executive director of Freedom Readers, Inc., a nonprofit company dedicated to promoting literacy. Tracy seeks to instill in teachers, students, and the community at large the belief that every student can learn and every learner has the responsibility to pass on new knowledge to another.

Dr. Bailey earned her BA from The College of Charleston- majoring in English Education- and a Masters in Secondary Education from Coastal Carolina University. She is married to award-winning writer, Issac J. Bailey, and is the mother of two wonderful children, Kyle and Lyric.



Brent Groome

Chair

A 1987 graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, Brent came to the Grand Strand area in 1989. After a 31 year career with HTC (Horry Telephone Cooperative), he retired in 2021.  In addition to his current role with WCF, he also serves as a member of the Board of Commissioners for HGTC. He is also active with his church; serving as a Sunday School teacher and congregational song leader.  He and his wife, Dana, live in the Conway area.

Shawna Mosley-Foster

Service and Operations Officer

shawna@mywcf.org
843-357-4483 x200

Shawna, a native of Jamaica, NY, has more than 15 years of experience working in the hospitality and tourism field. Since relocating to South Carolina in 2004, she spent a few more years working with a local hospitality company before joining WCF’s staff.  While a native New Yorker, Shawna has a rich heritage right here in the Waccamaw area. Her mother was born and raised on Sandy Island, and her father is from Bucksport. She enjoys cooking, stargazing with her family, cruising and once retired….RVing! Shawna and her husband are empty nesters and resides in Myrtle Beach. 

Mike Mancuso

Executive Director

mike@mywcf.org
843-357-4483


Mike is a veteran business leader with more than 30 years of experience as an innovative problem solver and change agent for nonprofit, banking and small business organizations. Mike is a skilled economic developer with background in community development, downtown redevelopment, industrial development and strategic planning. His passion is helping Communities and Businesses thrive and grow. Most recently Mike served as the President and CEO of the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Foundation in Johnston County, NC and as Executive Director for the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, Inc in Salem, OH. Mike and his wife Christine make their home in Little River, SC. They have 3 children and 5 grandchildren living in Charleston, SC, Atlanta, GA, & Austin TX. Mike enjoys boating on the ICW, tinkering in his workshop/garage and spending time with family and friends.