Every complex subject has its own myths and misconceptions. Estate planning is no exception. Here are three things that you should understand in order to help you create and maintain a plan that will work for you the way you want it to when you need it to.
Estate Planning Myth #1 – You Don’t Need an Estate Plan Because Your Spouse Will Inherit Everything
A large number of people belief that if you are married, you really do not even need a will or a trust because your spouse will just get everything. The problem is that this is not always the case. Who inherits, even if you are married, will depend on a lot of factors. The way your property is titled will determine as much or more than the laws of intestate succession. Who is named as the beneficiaries of your life insurance and retirement plans? What are the laws in the state where you live and what are the laws in the states where you own property? All of these things go to determine where your property goes when you die. The only way to insure that your spouse will inherit everything is to sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney who will help you create an estate plan that will meet all of your goals.
Estate Planning Myth #2 – You Don’t Need an Estate Plan Because Your Family Knows Your Final Wishes
You have sat down with your family and you believe that they will “do the right thing” after you go. Without having these wishes written down in a valid will or a valid trust, even though your family knows what you want, they may not be able to follow through with what you want. This is true for several reasons. First, as above, how your property is entitled will determine who inherits it. It is not what you tell your family what you want to happen. The title will determine everything. In addition, if you fail to complete or update beneficiary designations for bank accounts and life insurance policies or retirement plans, your family will not have any authority to tell the bank or the insurance company who should inherit the proceeds. Finally, without an estate plan, the laws of the state where you live or any other state where you own property will determine who inherits whatever property goes in to your probate estate, not your family. The only way to ensure that your property will go to your intended heirs is to sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney who will help you create an estate plan that will meet all of your goals.
Estate Planning Myth #3 – Once You’ve Created Your Estate Plan, It’s Done
Many people feel that once they have created their estate plan with an experienced estate planning attorney, that is it – it is done. This position really seems the reasonable position. The problem is that as the years go by your life changes. The law governing wills, estates, probates, trusts and death taxes always changes. It is like Mark Twain said, “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” We know the legislature is going to change the law and they are probably going to change it to take either your life, your liberty or your property. For this reason, your estate plan can become out of date relatively quickly. The only way to ensure that your plan will work the way you intend it to work is to pull it out of the drawer every year and have it looked it over by your estate planning attorney.
Final Thoughts About Estate Planning Myths
These are only three of the top estate planning myths. The problem is that there are many more. The only way to separate truth from fiction and get a plan that will work the way you want and when you want for you and your family is to retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney.
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300 N. Dakota Ave. #603
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