What Are The Top Misconceptions That People Have About Estate Planning?
A common misconception about estate planning is that the creation of an estate plan is a one-time transaction, and that once a plan has been created, it can be put away and forgotten about. While it is always better to have a plan than to not have a plan, it is critical to occasionally review estate plans to ensure that there haven’t been any changes in the law that affect it, and that everything remains accurate.
Many people have pipe dreams about how their estate plan will be carried out; having worked with estate plans both post-death and during the pre-planning stages, I am able to advise clients as to how realistic their estate plan is, and provide suggestions for how to adjust an estate plan in order to ensure a particular outcome.
Other misconceptions revolve around what happens when specific accounts are left in the names of specific people. Since accounts often change in value or get closed, it is usually better to leave percentages of assets or specific assets to beneficiaries. Married couples often create their estate plans in ways that assume they will die simultaneously, which would be unusual. In these cases, I explain to them what their plan is missing, and how to change their plan so that it is consistent rather than arbitrarily made based on which spouse passes away first.
Do Most Attorneys Just Do A One-Time Estate Planning Document?
Most attorneys just complete one-time estate planning documents for their clients, thereby leaving those clients without an attorney to help them ensure that their plan stays up to date and reflects their wishes as their lives change.
What Should Be The Ultimate Goal Of A Proper Estate Plan?
The goal of an estate plan is to ensure that upon a person’s death, their wishes are carried out and their assets go where they wanted them to go. An estate plan should also account for how the individual wants to be cared for during their lifetime in the event that they become incapacitated or otherwise unable to manage the affairs of their estate. Lastly, an estate plan should address health care and end-of-life matters, and name an individual who would be responsible for making health care-related decisions in the event that the individual becomes unable to do so themselves.
Why Do People Put off Creating An Estate Plan?
The majority of Americans pass away without having done any estate planning. In some ways, this is understandable because it is not pleasant to have a conversation about death, disability, and taxes. However, I have found that once someone finally does estate planning, they experience a tremendous sense of relief.
When Is The Best Time To Start Planning For My Estate?
I’ve worked with clients who were in their twenties, and clients who were on their deathbeds; with the exception of cases wherein the person has already lost capacity due to Alzheimer’s, a stroke, or other condition, there isn’t a time that is too early or too late to begin estate planning. With that said, the earlier the better.
Is Estate Planning A One-Size-Fits-All Process?
Estate planning is definitely not a one-size-fits-all process. Every plan should be tailored to the details of the individual’s life, values, and assets, all of which may change over time. This means that working with someone who is in their 20s or 30s will involve addressing different issues than those that would be addressed with a retiree.
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