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The scene opens in an opulent room.  A strange collection of people shift nervously in their seats, waiting expectantly.  At last, a short man in a suit and spectacles steps in, and with great flourish, reveals The Last Will and Testament.  Shock and horror, triumph and exultation ensue.

When most people begin to think about estate planning, that picture is in the back of their minds, and they think – I don’t have a lot, I just need a simple will.  They’ve fallen prey to the three myths of the will.

Shocking Truth #1: Your heirs don’t automatically get your estate because you have a will

The reality is that with a will, your estate, unless it is under $150,000 in gross value, will go through probate.  That means months will go by before your estate is distributed, and likely, your heirs will need an attorney to help them navigate the detailed requirements of the probate court at significant cost.  Finally, probate is a public process, exposing your heirs to unscrupulous individuals.

Shocking Truth #2: A will leaves you exposed to “living probate”

A will is a very limited tool, and it leaves you exposed in the event you become disabled, it leaves your heirs exposed to probate, and it provides no creditor protection for your surviving spouse or children.  To protect yourself from “living probate” or conservatorship, you’ll need more than a simple will.

Shocking Truth #3: Young children won’t benefit from their inheritance under a simple will

Any money left to a child will be managed by the court under a guardianship.  This typically means the court will have to sign off of any major expense, making access to the money difficult.  Then, when the child turns age 18, the court will turn the entire amount over to the child.  While some children may be able to handle this responsibility, many are completely unprepared.

The Good News

Fortunately, there is a solution to all of these problems in a proper estate plan.

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