When diving in for the first time, estate planning can be confusing and a little scary. Even families who think they know all the ins and outs of the process rarely do. This is why seeking professional guidance from a qualified attorney is so essential. Not only will they craft legal instruments that honor your wishes and cover all the important bases, but they can also ease your concerns and dispel many of the common misconceptions about estate planning.
Since protecting our client’s assets and legacy is one of Christman Ramsey & Foster, PC’s top priorities, we wanted to share a few of the myths and misconceptions that can push you and your family in the wrong direction if you’re not careful.
6 Common Misconceptions About Estate Planning
Myth #1 — I have to be wealthy
When many people hear the word “estate,” they think of the older, high net-worth businessman. Those with a mansion in Los Angeles, a summer home in Italy, and five sports cars. In reality, we all have an estate, and you do not have to be wealthy or elderly to benefit from an estate plan. An “estate” is simply everything you own, regardless of what position you think you are in financially. Our attorneys will help you to create legal instruments to distribute your assets according to your wishes, nominate a guardian for minor children, minimize family disputes, avoid probate and estate administration, and plan for incapacity.
Myth #2 — Online templates are quicker and easier to fill out
Yes, DIY templates exist online for many legal documents, including wills and powers of attorney. At first glance, they can appear quicker, easier, and cheaper to fill out. The problem is that templates are exactly that — templates. They are designed more for common situations and can’t account for your unique needs. Additionally, if not executed correctly, you could end up with an invalid or contested document that costs you and your heirs significant time, money, and heartache in the long run. Hiring an estate planning attorney to draft these documents ensures they are done correctly, account for everything, and can stand the test of time.
Myth #3 — Having a will avoids probate
The probate process can sometimes get complicated if there isn’t a will in place. However, just because there is a will doesn’t mean you can avoid the process altogether. Your will simply tells the probate court what your wishes are, and if executed correctly, the court will verify everything (appoint an executor, approve inventory of the estate assets, confirm heirs, etc.) and allow your assets to be distributed accordingly.
Myth #4 — I only need a will
A Last Will and Testament is typically seen as the first step in an estate planning strategy. It is meant to express your final wishes, whatever they might be. The amount of control you have can be pretty extraordinary. However, rarely are they the best and final option for every individual and family. We are here to help you put together an estate plan that goes beyond the last will and testament with a revocable trust, living will, health care directives, powers of attorney, or other various documents. Combined, these documents express your wishes, plan for incapacity and death, and protect your loved ones after you are gone.
Myth #5 — Once my estate plan is drafted, I don’t have to worry about it anymore
Many people think estate planning is a one-time event. The reality is that your estate plan and the documents that are included (wills, trusts, powers of attorney, healthcare directives, etc.) should be updated every few years to account for changes in your life (more children, divorce, marriage, changes in healthcare needs, death of beneficiaries, new assets, etc.). If you put your estate plan in a drawer and forget about it, it’s likely that it won’t cover all your needs as changes happen in your life.
Myth #6 — I have a General Power of Attorney. Therefore, I don’t need a will
A General Power of Attorney is a flexible document that allows you to name another person to step in and handle specific affairs on your behalf. For example, someone could handle your financial affairs or make real estate transfers on your behalf. The problem is that it is only valid while you are alive. Once you pass away, your will, trust, and other legal documents take over.
Please call Christman Attorneys for your legal needs today!
Please consult an attorney for advice about your situation. The material on this website and in this or any blog article we publish are for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice. The attorneys at Christman Ramsey & Foster, PC believe in tailoring legal advice and solutions to your circumstances.
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