Myths about Estate Planning

I want to talk about myths surrounding estate planning because there are a lot of them out there.

The first, biggest one is “estate planning is only for the wealthy.” But if you think about this, without estate planning, how else are going to protect your family’s interest, their future income needs if something happens to you, if you want things to go where you say, if you want to avoid probate, or you want to name who manages and administers your assets in the event you’re gone. I hope it’s not a surprise, but you will pass away. Do you want to name who would care for your minor children or direct how to fund education for older children. All these require some estate planning, for everyone.

Another myth: “I’ve already told my family my wishes; they already know what I want.” I do not mean to be glib, Do you really want your family to go to the bank about accounts, CD’s, a safe deposit box and say “well he or she told me this this is what they would like.” That’s not going to fly. If they need to retitle or liquidate stocks and bonds, is it someone just going to take their word for it because those were wishes expressed to them. I don’t think so. And the Register of Deeds office: are they going to be able to go to the courthouse and say “we need to change the deed, we just need to change the deed real quick, on the family home.” None of that’s going to work. You need some estate planning.

Another fairly common myth is that I have to leave equal shares, portions to my children or they can challenge my will or trust. First of all, there’s nothing in Kansas law that says people need to be treated equally in Wills or Trusts or any sort of estate planning. This is really I think a misconception that maybe comes from movies? A challenge to an estate plan is very difficult. They’re not brought that often and when they are, it’s a pretty high bar. They will have to show that among other things that someone didn’t have capacity, that they weren’t lucid, they didn’t know what they were doing when they made their estate plan, or that they were somehow unduly pressured, coerced. These are very difficult cases to make. So, challenges to Wills or Trust estate plans are uncommon.

Finally, there is a myth that “estate planning is just too complicated; it’s too much to think about.” Well that’s why you hire a professional, right? You go talk to someone who can talk you through the process, walk through it with you and how simple it can be. It’s not a tricky thing. You see someone with expertise, they talk to you about options, you come up with ideas, they draft documents, you sign.

So, those are just maybe four common myths for today on estate planning. But, what are you telling yourself to put off estate-planning? It may be time to get it done.

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