Too many individuals have preconceived notions that only elderly or sick people need to worry about estate planning. In truth, everyone - regardless of health, wealth or age - should take the time to draft a comprehensive estate plan. Having these documents in place not only gives you peace of mind, it also lets you control who gets what when.
An estate plan is typically made up of numerous types of documents like a will, a trust or powers of attorney. Many of these documents can be completed online, but an experienced estate planning lawyer can guide you through the process, answer your questions and help you prepare for unexpected complications.
Here are three myths that people base their estate planning choices on.
- Only the wealthy need to go through the process of estate planning. It is likely that many people believe this only because of the tax implications of trusts and Medicaid planning. Really, everybody should take the time to complete a will and consider powers of attorney. A will can be very general - specifying only a couple heirs - or very specific - describing in detail what property is distributed to whom. Additionally, powers of attorney are important because - should you become incapacitated - you've already named a proxy who you trust to make financial or health-related decisions.
- Only the elderly need to worry about estate planning. Closely related to item number one, individuals of all ages should consider developing a comprehensive estate plan. It might be morbid to dwell upon, but tragedy can strike regardless of status. A serious medical condition or catastrophic personal injury can strike a person down in the prime of his or her life. Having a will or trust in place can prevent unnecessary delays and unwarranted disputes among your loved ones.
- I can do everything online. While there are wonderful online resources and printed "do it yourself" packets that can be purchased, it might be wise to set aside some time to discuss your estate plan with an experienced legal professional. An attorney can help you plan for contingencies. What happens if your trustee dies before you do? What happens if your sole beneficiary dies in the same accident that claims your life? What happens if you and your proxy are injured in the same accident? Your lawyer can propose these scenarios and help you build language into your plan that details what should happen.
While these are only a few myths, they seem to be the most pervasive of the lot. It might be worth your time to discuss your concerns with an accomplished estate planning attorney. At the very least, a lawyer can answer your questions and help you plan for a stable future for your surviving loved ones.