Creating a plan for your estate is one of the most important things you can do to not only protect the wealth you’ve worked hard to earn throughout your life, but also relieve your family of the burden of having to get your affairs in order when you are no longer around to help them.
If you haven’t yet taken the time to seek the aid of a skilled estate planning attorney who can put together a comprehensive and personalized estate plan on your behalf, ask yourself why that is. Is it due to time constraints? Feeling like you don’t know enough to take the first step? Even though estate planning is essential for anyone with assets (money and property), those are valid reasons to feel hesitant about beginning the process!
That being said, many people fall victim to one or more of several myths about estate planning, and we want to make sure that they are not the reason you are putting off this incredibly meaningful decision. In this blog, we will be debunking 7 widely-circulated and totally false myths about estate planning!
Myth #1: Estate Planning Is Only For The Wealthy
Even if you believe the value of all your money and property is only moderate, you likely still wouldn’t want everything you’ve worked hard to earn throughout your life to end up in the hands of strangers or the government! This is why you need an estate plan. There are a number of tools that can help you address how, when, and to whom you want your assets distributed following your death, such as wills, trusts, and life insurance. Without them, you risk what you’ve spent a lifetime building being lost to family disagreements, delays, probate and legal fees, and other expenses!
Myth #2: Estate Planning Is Only For The Elderly
The truth is that adults of any age can benefit from having an estate plan for many reasons, including:
- Making sure someone is legally able to make medical care decisions on your behalf – Part of the estate planning process includes creating advance directives or signing a healthcare power of attorney, which ensures that your preferences for medical care will be known, even if you become incapacitated and cannot speak for yourself.
- Making sure the beneficiaries you select can receive any insurance or retirement benefits – In the event that something unexpected happens to you, you don’t want the proceeds you’ve earned to go to waste.
- Making sure that your property would seamlessly transfer to your spouse – In the event that something unexpected happens to you, a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship would ensure this happens.
- Making sure that you have named a guardian for your minor children – In the event that something unexpected happens to you, you would want someone you trust inherently to raise your kids. You could also establish a trust to provide for your child’s financial needs during that time.
- And more!
Myth #3: Having A Will Alone Will Keep Your Estate From Going Through Probate
This may be one of the most disappointing myths, and unfortunately, many people don’t even realize it until their loved one is already gone and it’s too late. Although wills can be beneficial for eliminating confusion when it comes to who will inherit certain assets, only assets in a trust will completely bypass probate.
Probate is an incredibly complex legal proceeding, and is often lengthy (9-12 months on average), expensive, and stressful to the executor or administrator who must handle it. Assets in a trust can be almost immediately divided and distributed to their heirs following the passing of the creator, thus minimizing legal confusion and a long waiting period.
Myth #4: Estate Planning Is Only About Assets
As already stated, there are other purposes that can be served by an estate plan, such as naming guardians for minor children or making sure your medical preferences are explicit and on record.
Myth #5: Only Married Couples Need Estate Plans
Even if you aren’t married and don’t have kids, having no estate plan means risking the wrong people benefitting from your assets, or the wrong people being in charge of your estate, if you should pass away or become incapacitated. You should be the only person allowed to make the decisions which affect the money and property you’ve worked hard to earn!
Myth #6: Once You Create Your Estate Plan, You Can Set It And Forget It
Life changes happen all the time, and your estate plan should be reflective of your current reality. It’s advisable that you review it and make any necessary changes at least once every 3 years. For example, you’ll likely want to update your plan if any of the following occur to you:
- The birth or adoption of a child or grandchild
- A child or grandchild becomes an adult
- A child or grandchild needs educational funding
- Death or change in circumstances of the guardian named for your minor children
- Changes in your number of dependents
- Marriage or divorce
- Illness or disability of your spouse
- Death or illness of any family members
- And more!
Myth #7: DIY Estate Planning Is Fool-Proof
This is another heartbreaking myth to fall victim to. An individual might start getting ads online for estate planning documents they can download or kits they can purchase in the midst of their estate planning research. One big problem with these kinds of “do-it-yourself” offers is that they are almost never in compliance with each state’s specific laws and guidelines. Someone may think they are protected, but after they pass, a judge rules that their will or trust or power of attorney is not legally valid. In that case, it would be as if they had no estate plan at all, which puts their family in a difficult position and their assets at risk.
The other major issue is that these documents are generic and not personalized to each individual’s unique personal and financial goals. Working with a skilled estate planning attorney is the best way to ensure that your estate plan meets your needs and is in-line with Pennsylvania’s laws.
Contact Daly Law Offices To Get Started!
Now that we’ve set the record straight, we want to help you take the first step toward your future. Our lead attorney, Joshua Daly, has over 15 years of experience and is dedicated to helping clients protect what matters most! Call today to schedule your free consultation and learn more about how we can serve you!