Sometimes, conventional wisdom can hurt. When it comes to estate planning, some of the things “everybody knows” are wrong—and can put your financial stability and your family’s security at risk. Fortunately, a little education and planning is all it takes to avoid the pitfalls associated with the most common estate planning myths.
Estate Planning Myth #1: I’m Too Young to Worry about Estate Planning
When you’re young and healthy and expect to live a long, healthy life, it’s easy to assume that you have plenty of time to think about estate planning when you’re older. But estate planning isn’t just about arranging to pass on your assets after death. A comprehensive estate plan will include a wide range of provisions, including:
- Nomination of a guardian, if you have minor children
- Healthcare directives and appointment of healthcare representatives
- Determination of beneficiaries for life insurance and retirement accounts
- Asset protection and advantageous titling of assets
Estate Planning Myth #2: I Don’t Have Enough Assets for Estate Planning
Many people neglect estate planning because they have few assets. While a small estate may not require as much planning and organization as a larger and more complicated one, many people have assets they overlook. Some of the reasons even those with few assets should attend to estate planning include:
- Putting someone you trust in charge of managing your assets and papers after your death
- Ensuring that personal property, photographs, mementos, and similar property is distributed to those to whom it would mean the most
- Avoiding leaving your family uncertain or in conflict over how to manage property you leave behind
- Making sure you have a comprehensive plan for jointly held property, retirement accounts, life insurance and other property that will change hands after your death
Estate Planning Myth # 3: My Spouse (or Children) Will Get Everything Anyway
Many people assume that their closest relatives—the people they’d name if they created a will—will automatically inherit if they die without creating a will or living trust. While that is true in a general sense, it doesn’t always play out the way people anticipate or intend. One common complication arises when a married person has a child from a prior marriage; in that case, the surviving spouse may inherit only half of the estate. And, if the child is a minor and no arrangements have been made, his or her inheritance will typically be managed by the former spouse.
Estate Planning Myth #4: I Can Just Use a Form and Write My Own Will
Most American adults don’t have a will at all, so it’s easy to assume that downloading a form and filling it out is better than doing nothing. In some cases, that’s even true, but it’s not a safe assumption. Estate planning involves much more than writing a will, and one of the advantages of working with an experienced estate planning lawyer is that he or she can help you assess all aspects of your succession and asset protection planning.
When your estate planning is limited to filling out forms:
- It’s easy to make a mistake that can have significant consequences for your loved ones
- You may overlook important issues that are not included in a particular form
- You may inadvertently create contradictions in your estate plan (for example, by including a retirement account in your will, though you named a beneficiary for the account when you signed up with your employer)
Our Estate Planning Lawyer Can Help
If you’re uncertain about how best to ensure that your loved ones are protected if you should pass away or become incapacitated, take advantage of the knowledge of an experienced estate planner.
Schedule a consultation with an experienced estate litigator right now, or call us directly at (386) 272-7445.
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