Who needs estate planning? If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you probably think that the answer is everyone.
If so, you’re absolutely right. But despite the importance of estate planning, some myths about who needs it always seem to crop up. Here is a list of three common myths and what they get wrong.
Myth #1: I’m too young to need estate planning.
Like many people, you may instinctively shy away from estate planning. Perhaps you think that there’s plenty of time for estate planning in the future, and so you can put it off. Or maybe you just don’t like thinking about death for long enough to create a plan for it. But neither of these is a good reason to delay talking to an estate planning attorney, whether you’re 30, 50, or 80.
Unfortunately, we just don’t get a set amount of time to live. Life expectancy statistics are not guarantees. Death can be unexpected, and so it is critical to plan your estate well in advance of when you think you’ll need it.
Estate planning is especially important for young families. Opening an estate administration can be difficult for anyone. But worse, if both parents die without a plan, the court will be forced to appoint a guardian for any minor children, a process that is lengthy and stressful for all involved. With an estate plan, those children’s parents could name the guardian for them.
Myth #2: I’m not rich, so I don’t need estate planning.
Many people think that estate planning is just for the super-wealthy. After all, when we think of an “estate,” often the image that comes to mind is an aristocrat’s stately mansion. But in the estate planning context, “estate” just means whatever you own, regardless how meager.
Plus, some lawyers don’t like the phrase “estate planning,” because it doesn’t really capture everything that estate planning attorneys do. Estate planning isn’t just about planning what happens to your property when you die. It’s also about planning what will happen to you and your family if you become too sick to care for yourself or them.
Bonus Myth: Estate planning is all about the estate tax!
It isn’t. In 2015, fewer than 12,000 estate tax returns were filed throughout the United States. If estate planning is just about the estate tax, someone should notify us estate planning lawyers that there isn’t enough work to go around! In reality, estate planning is about more than just avoiding taxes.
Myth #3: I can print a Will online, and everything will be fine!
The rise of the online, do-it-yourself Will is unfortunate. If you’ve ever considered using one because you think it is cheaper than hiring a lawyer, keep in mind that you get what you pay for. If you read the fine print on the sorts of websites that offer do-it-yourself Wills (or other legal documents, for that matter), you’ll see a disclaimer that says something like, “We aren’t lawyers and we don’t offer legal advice. The information we provide is no substitute for a lawyer.”
That disclaimer points to the biggest problem with do-it-yourself Wills: You don’t know what you don’t know. The companies selling those Wills are relying on you to know what you’re doing. If you get something wrong, that’s on you, not them. Estate planning lawyers train for years to fully understand how to draft the right Will for each individual client. A few minutes—or even a few hours—reading general information about Wills isn’t going to give you that kind of expertise.
Don’t Fall for Estate Planning Myths!
Each of these three myths can spell big trouble for you if you fall for them. Hopefully, this post will help you avoid those problems. If it has, or if you have any other questions about how to do estate planning right, please give me a call today, and I’ll be happy to help you.