Do you feel lost and confused when it comes to estate planning? What is a Will? What is a Living Trust? What other estate planning documents do I need? Are you sure you know what estate planning is or what it should accomplish? In our work as estate planning attorneys, we hear from Minnesotans every day that estate planning is confusing and overwhelming. People also say they’ve heard plenty of conflicting information. Unfortunately, this lack of clarity often leads to people avoiding creating an estate plan until it’s too late. This can turn into an expensive and time-consuming hassle for your loved ones.
To gain some clarity, let’s debunk the estate planning myths we hear most often:
Myth #1: “I don’t need an estate plan yet,” or, “I’m too young for an estate plan!”
People believe that you need to reach a certain age or achieve a certain level of financial success to justify creating a will, living trust, or other estate planning documents. It is true that your goals and concerns will likely change as you age and accumulate more assets, but every legal adult must have some semblance of an estate plan in place.
A basic estate plan can help you:
- Address emergency incapacity.
- Avoid leaving behind an intestate estate.
- Name someone you to settle your estate when you pass away.
- Name guardians for your minor children.
Myth #2: “I already have a will, so I don’t need to worry about probate.”
A will is a great foundation for an estate plan. However, it’s a common misconception that by creating a will, your loved ones can avoid probate proceedings. In reality, a will is a legal document designed to be enacted through the probate court.
If you’re concerned about helping your loved ones avoid a messy, time-consuming probate process, you have other options. To learn what type of estate plan makes the most sense for your goals, your concerns, and your loved ones, it’s best to schedule a complimentary meeting with a local estate planning attorney.
Myth #3: “Your estate plan should be completely private.”
We know that money and death are taboo topics at the family dinner table, but there are plenty of good reasons to share (at least some of) your estate plan with the people you’ll leave behind.
First and foremost, it’s a good idea to alert the people who will serve a role in your estate plan. They must understand that you have a plan and expectations of them. It’s also important that they know the name of the law firm that prepared the plan. That way, they can reach out to your attorney when they need help implementing your wishes, during your incapacity or after your passing.
Avoiding Disputes & Preserving Family Harmony
Dealing with the recent death of a loved one is stressful. It’s a bad time to shock loved ones, beneficiaries, or heirs with unexpected terms in the estate plan. By discussing the terms of your plan beforehand, you can help avoid conflict down the road. If you are worried a loved one may attempt contesting your plan, there are advanced planning strategies that can mitigate this possibility. By being upfront with your wishes, you can help set reasonable expectations, minimizing unnecessary conflicts between loved ones.
Creating Peace of Mind
Simply knowing that you have a plan, where it’s located, and who to call if help is needed can bring your loved ones some peace of mind. Preparing for incapacity or death can feel morbid, but your estate plan is actually a toolbox that helps your loved ones properly care for you when needed. It creates a safety net to protect against the unknown, so your loved ones needn’t worry about the added stress of handling things if you become incapacitated or pass away.
If having a conversation with your loved ones doesn’t feel like a practical option, you can draft a “Letter of Instruction.” This simple letter includes information that isn’t explicitly outlined in your plan. It can include more personal information, like explanations for the decisions you’ve made about your estate, loved ones, inheritance, and more.
Myth #4: “I don’t need to worry about incapacity until I’m much older.”
In an ideal world, this statement would be true. However, we never know when accident, injury, or illness could strike. Creating legal documents that plan for incapacity is an important safety measure.
Having incapacity documents in place means your loved ones will have the power and tools they need to help care for you if needed.
Myth #5: “Once you have an estate plan in place, you never have to think about it again.”
People often view estate planning as a once-in-a-lifetime event. However, your estate plan won’t function properly unless it reflects your current circumstances. As life changes impact our assets or loved ones, our estate plans must be updated or amended to reflect those changes. To ensure your plan continues to meet your needs, attorneys Matt Guttman and Jamie Reff-Wagner recommend reviewing your estate plan every three to five years.
If you believe your estate plan is due for review, contact the team at Guttman Law for a complimentary estate plan review meeting. Our attorneys will evaluate your existing plan and, if appropriate, offer recommendations based on your goals and concerns.
Speak to an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
Estate planning can be a confusing and overwhelming undertaking. The best way to create a plan that truly addresses your needs is to speak with an attorney that focuses on estate planning. They can provide up-to-date insights on estate planning law, identifying potential issues that might otherwise go undetected.
To learn more about your options, contact Guttman Law for a complimentary consultation today. Our number is (612) 324-4055, and you can reach us online.