Estate Planning Myths

Estate Planning

Amy M. Scott Smith | November 09, 2020

Our estate planning attorneys have written a number of articles dispelling many common estate planning myths – click the links below to learn more.


Myth: I don’t have many assets, or my kids are on my bank account, so I don’t need to do estate planning.

Fact: While it may be true that your assets are set up to pass to your heirs without a probate via joint tenancy or beneficiary designations, sometimes this doesn’t work.  For example, if an asset is forgotten or isn’t set up correctly, or a joint owner or beneficiary has predeceased you, a probate may still be necessary.  A Will helps make probate more efficient.  And, there are other aspects of estate planning that are important such as a Power of Attorney and a Living Will (also known as an Advanced Directive).  Talk to your estate planning attorney to see if you might need more than just a Will.

 


Myth: I have a Will so my family won’t have to go through probate.

Fact: A Will doesn’t avoid probate, but it can make the process more efficient.  There are, however, other ways to avoid probate.  Your estate planning attorney can review your assets and discuss your options for avoiding probate, including whether it makes sense for your situation.

 


Myth: I signed the Living Will (Advanced Directive) form my doctor gave me, so I’m covered.

Fact:  It depends on the form your doctor gave you to complete – some forms may not include a Power of Attorney for health care to enable your agent to work with your doctors when you are unable to communicate.  It is a good idea to have your estate planning attorney review the form you’ve completed to ensure you are covered.  You might also need a Power of Attorney for financial matters.

 


Myth: I am married so I don’t need a Power of Attorney.

Fact: While it is true that your spouse can manage joint accounts, your spouse will not have the ability to manage assets in your name only (ex: vehicles, retirement account, utility accounts) nor will your spouse be able to sell or liquidate jointly owned assets.  If you are unable to act for yourself, a Power of Attorney can be used to give your spouse, as well as a successor agent (ex: a child), authority to act on your behalf.  Your estate planning attorney can prepare a Power of Attorney that appropriately protects you.

 


Myth: Probates are always an expensive, long, drawn-out fight among family members.

Fact: Thoughtful and complete planning can make probate a more efficient process, and in some cases may eliminate the need for probate.  Contact your estate planning attorney to ensure your planning is complete.

 


Myth: I’ll always be able to help my children in an emergency.

Fact: If your child is 18 or over, you will not have authority to make decisions for them in a medical emergency, nor will you be able to access or manage their finances, without a Power of Attorney.  Your child will need to meet with an estate planning attorney to ensure he or she is covered in an emergency.  

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