Like any other area of the law, estate planning has its share of myths and misconceptions. Understanding these five estate planning myths will have you on the road to creating and maintaining a plan that will work the way you expect it to work when it’s needed. As always, feel free to call our office if you have any questions about these myths and how they may apply to your specific situation.
Estate Planning Myth #1 – Estate Planning Is Only for the “Rich”.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “I don’t have an estate. I don’t have anything to plan.” Most people don’t realize that even if you don’t have a large estate, even families with modest amounts of money need an estate plan. By having basic documents in place, you get to decide who gets your stuff when you are gone, who administers and distributes that stuff, and who watches over any minor children you may have. Even if you have next to nothing in assets, you should still plan for incapacity. Having a Health Care Directive and a Power of Attorney will allow you to determine who makes decisions about your legal, financial, and health care decisions if you are incapacitated or unable to make those decisions yourself.
Estate Planning Myth #2 – You Don’t Need an Estate Plan Because Your Spouse Will Inherit Everything
A common belief is that if you’re married and you don’t have a will or a trust, your spouse will still inherit everything. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Who will inherit your estate even if you’re married depends on many different factors, including how your property is titled, who you have named on your beneficiary designations, and the laws of the state where you live and any other state where you own property. 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 #3 – You Don’t Need an Estate Plan Because Your Family Knows Your Final Wishes
You’ve shared your final wishes with your family and you’re confident that they’ll “do the right thing” after you die. Unfortunately, without having these wishes written down in a valid will or a valid trust, your family may not be able to fulfill your intentions for several reasons. First, how your property is titled will determine who inherits it, not who you’ve told your family you want to inherit it. In addition, if you fail to complete or update the beneficiary designations for assets such as bank accounts and life insurance policies, your family won’t have any authority to tell the bank or insurance company who should inherit the proceeds. Finally, without an estate plan, the laws of the state where you live and any other state where you own property will dictate who inherits your probate estate, not your family. The only way to insure 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 #4 – Once You’ve Created Your Estate Plan, It’s Done
Suppose that you’ve taken the time to sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney and create an estate plan that meets all of your goals. You may think that now you can sit back and relax because your estate plan is done. While this attitude may seem reasonable, unfortunately as the years go by your life and the laws governing wills, estates, probate, trusts, and death taxes will continue to change, which means that eventually your estate plan will become out of date. 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 few years and have it looked over by your estate planning attorney.
Estate Planning Myth #5 Estate Planning Is Only For the Elderly
While it is certainly common for individuals to prepare an estate plan in their “golden years” as they contemplate their own mortality, estate planning is a must if you have minor children, a spouse, or family that you care about. Having a plan in place can help avoid probate, unnecessary taxes, and ensure that your family will remain on speaking terms by preventing family feuds over your assets. While the estate planning needs for someone in their 30’s is perhaps different than the estate planning needs for someone in their 60’s, it is still wise to sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss how estate planning can help your family.
Final Thoughts About Estate Planning Myths in Minnesota
These are only five of the top estate planning myths. Unfortunately, there are several more. The only way to separate the myths from the reality and get a plan that will work for you and for your family is to retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney. Call our office today at (952) 658-6503 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss the specifics of your own situation.
Zach Wiegand is a Burnsville, Minnesota estate planning attorney who also handles probate in Dakota County and other counties in the greater Twin-Cities area. Zach is the owner of Gold Leaf Estate Planning, LLC, which is a Minnesota estate planning law firm that handles probate and trust administration in Minnesota. Zach was named a 2017 and 2018 Minnesota Super Lawyer – Rising Star and he is a member of WealthCounsel – a national organization of estate planning attorneys dedicated to practice excellence. You can contact Zach via e-mail at email@example.com or by calling (952) 658-6503. Gold Leaf Estate Planning is located in Burnsville at 3000 County Road 42 W., Suite 310, Burnsville, MN 55337.