In the second part of our series, we will continue to explore the most common myths about estate planning. In the last issue, the top estate planning myths reviewed were: (1) estate planning is only for the wealthy, (2) I am young and healthy—I do not need to plan my estate, and (3) Idaho is a community property state, therefore my spouse will get everything. Without further delay, the remaining false 3 estate planning myths are:
4. I drafted my own Will or Trust using online forms or software, so I do not need an attorney. Drafting your own will or trust may keep a few extra dollars in your pocket, but, much of the time, these forms do not take into account Idaho specific community property laws, special family needs, or businesses and these forms can create large errors for well-intentioned people. These forms are often wrought with mistakes and ambiguities that may result in thousands of dollars in legal fees for your family to fix these problems. Furthermore, because everyone’s family and assets are unique, one person’s estate plan is not a “one-size fits all” and may not always fit another person’s estate needs.
5. My family already knows my desires. You may have verbally instructed your family on who is to get what assets, or maybe you wrote your wishes down on a piece of paper. However, such informal actions do not always hold up in court should family members decide to contest your requests. Although you may believe your family will do the right thing and everyone currently gets a long, in my experience, unusual things happen when money and family collide. Without formalized testamentary instructions, the lack of an estate plan can create an expensive mess for your family and cause tension between once-close family members.
6. I already have an estate plan, I do not have to do anything further. Even if you have an estate plan in place, it is always good to revisit your estate plan every 3 years to ensure that your documents still carry out your intent. You may have had new members join the family or other members leave, or there may have been changes in state or tax law that will require updating your estate planning documents. Therefore, an estate plan that worked 3 years ago, let alone 10 or 15 years ago, may not be effective today or still carry out your desires.
Planning your estate does not have to be a complicated or daunting process. You can simply contact an estate planning attorney, provide the attorney with information about your assets and family, and the attorney can recommend an estate plan to fit your needs and prepare the necessary documents. It is easy to put your estate plan on the back burner, but peace of mind comes with ensuring that your loved ones are provided for. You can save yourself and your family a headache, and quite possibly a lot of money, by consulting an estate planning attorney early, so that if the unexpected happens, you and your family can be as prepared as possible.
This article is not intended to replace legal advice applicable to your situation and should be used only for informational purpose. Consult with your legal or tax advisors before implementing any suggestions contained herein.
Ms. Clapp-Younggren is an associate attorney with the firm of Sandra L. Clapp & Associates, P.A. and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 938-2660.