These are the top five of my favorite whoppers I hear as an estate planning attorney.
5. I don’t care what happens after I’m gone.
It is true that the things you leave behind aren’t going to mean much to you anymore. But, the people you leave behind are going to know whether you cared enough about them to leave behind an orderly plan, or a big fat legal mess that has everyone at each other’s throats.
4. My estate is simple
Are you sure? Flying is simple too – just pull up on the yoke to go up, and push to go down. Just like flying, estate planning has many traps for the unwary, and inexperienced. Estate planners have the benefit of working on many estates, and seeing many different situations, and invest in many many hours of specialized education so they can avoid problems that others without that experience and training won’t even see.
3. I don’t have enough to need an estate plan
If you own a home, you need an estate plan. If you end up with Parkinsons, or Alzheimers, or some other affliction that leaves you disabled for years, you’ll need an estate plan.
2. I’m going to live forever
Most people would recognize this statement as being silly if they said it out loud, but it is easy to think and act as if we are immortal. We buy property insurance in case of fire or earthquake or flood, we buy car insurance in case of an accident. None of those things are guaranteed to happen, but we see the value in hedging our bets, just in case. Just like those things, we should plan for the few things in life that are guaranteed, and have “legal insurance” for the benefit of the people we care about the most.
1. One trust is as good as another
You may have been led to believe that one trust is as good as another, and the only difference is the price. Do you know if your Living Trust protect your loved ones’ inheritance from divorces, lawsuits and creditors? Will your Living Trust plan work properly, without first having to go to Court, when you or your spouse becomes ill or disabled? If you have young children, does your Living Trust help assure that they will be raised properly and lead a fruitful and meaningful life, rather than squander their inheritance? Will your Living Trust really avoid the expenses, delays and headaches of Probate, as it’s intended to?
Have you or anyone you know said any of these whoppers? Have you heard other estate planning whoppers?
Originally published June 19, 2014, updated February 25, 2016