The general idea of estate planning is fairly straightforward: it is the legal process of planning for your future and your family and loved ones after you are gone. Yet many people are not quite sure what planning for the future involves. Take a look at some of the most common myths about estate planning that you should not believe.
Myth: My estate isn’t huge so I don’t need any estate planning.
Reality: Most people don’t spend a lot of energy thinking about their estate plans. This is partly due to a very understandable reluctance to spend time contemplating death, but there’s another reason for not considering estate planning. There’s a widespread belief that only the rich need estate plans and those of us who don’t qualify as particularly wealthy don’t need to bother. In reality, you do need an estate plan no matter who you are or what your estate looks like. The complexity of your estate plan will depend on the complexity of your estate and your family situation. If your estate is simple and straightforward, your estate plan will be simple and straightforward. But this doesn’t make it any less necessary.
Myth: During the estate planning process, I can disinherit anyone I want.
Reality: You can cut people out of your trust or will, but you can’t always disinherit everyone with your estate plan. It can be particularly difficult to disinherit a spouse. Even if you have the power to disinherit someone, the law may limit your ability to do so, especially if the person being disinherited would normally be seen as a “natural object of your bounty” or a close family member who would usually be an heir. Disinheriting someone is frequently an invitation to have the trust or will challenged. Do not attempt it without the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney.
Myth: Avoiding the probate process is the main goal. It’s an estate planning nightmare.
Reality: Probate is the legal process of settling an estate with court approval and may be the best process in certain situations. Probate can be more difficult, take longer, and be more expensive because fees are based on the size of the estate. In many cases there are streamlined processes that provide an opportunity to keep costs under control. That’s not to say that probate cannot become a nightmare. If the heirs of the estate are waging war against each other, Probate Court may be the best forum for resolving issues.
The wealthy are not the only ones who need an estate plan and who can benefit from working with an experienced estate planning attorney. Get in touch with Dolen, Tucker, Tierney & Abraham today so we can help you think through the best way to make the most of what you have to pass on to your loved ones. Our estate planning is designed for each client on a case by case basis.