Debunking the Top Five Misconceptions About Estate Planning

April 16, 2023

There are many reasons people put off estate planning. Some people simply think the topic is too uncomfortable to talk about. Others are hesitant to embark on the process because of the many misconceptions and myths that are out there about estate planning. While some of these misconceptions sound reasonable, others are clearly untrue once you stop and really consider them.

Our Houston estate planning attorneys know the many reasons people put off estate planning for as long as possible. However, we also know how important it is for everyone to have an estate plan that protects them and their family for years to come. It is for this reason we have debunked the top five misconceptions we hear about estate planning so you understand the truth behind them.

MYTH: Only Certain People Need an Estate Plan

Perhaps the biggest misconception regarding estate planning is that only certain people need one. Some people think that only wealthy people with huge estates need to plan for them. Others believe that people only need an estate plan once they start to get older. 

The truth is, though, no one can predict the future and know when they will pass away. For this reason, everyone over the age of 18 years old should have an estate plan in place. An estate plan can make it easier for family members after a loved one passes away. It can allow them to avoid probate, and regardless of the assets within an estate, it also helps beneficiaries receive them sooner.

Tying into this myth is that only wealthy people need to have an estate plan. It is true that wealthy individuals will have more complex estate plans, but it is still important for individuals with smaller estates to have a plan in place. Anyone with a bank account, vehicle, or any other asset must have an estate plan. Without one, those assets can be tied up in the probate courts for months or years.

MYTH: Your Estate Plan Only Matters After You Pass Away

Some people do not think their estate plan will directly affect them. This misconception has largely been perpetuated by movies and television shows that depict family members finding a dusty copy of a will after someone has passed away. However, your estate plan could play an important role while you are still alive.

For example, if you create a living trust, it can become effective before you pass away. You can place property into the trust, and your beneficiaries can access the property once they reach a certain age or meet other milestones. Additionally, an estate plan can also include an advanced directive, which outlines your preferences for medical care in the event that you cannot make these decisions on your own. These are just two ways an estate plan can impact you while you are still alive, so it is important to create one as soon as possible.

MYTH: I Do Not Need an Estate Plan Because My Spouse Will Receive Everything

Without a will in place, your estate is subject to the intestate succession laws of the state. These laws do not necessarily allow your spouse to receive all of your property if they survive your death. 

For example, if you are in the difficult situation of wanting to disinherit your adult children, you must create a will that stipulates this. Otherwise, if you and your spouse had children together, they will automatically receive a portion of your estate. Your spouse will inherit all community property and 1/3 of your separate personal property. Your children will inherit everything else. If you have children, but they are not the children of your spouse, they will receive half of your community property.

If you have specific wishes, you must draft a will and use other estate planning tools to make sure they are fulfilled. When you do not, the state will determine how your estate is divided, which may not fall in line with your preferences.

MYTH: A Will is All You Need in an Estate Plan

It is true that wills form the foundations of many strong estate plans. It is also a fact that for some people, a will may be all they need. However, this is not true for everyone. There are many tools available for estate plans, and it is critical to speak to an attorney about the ones that are right for you.

For example, if you have very specific wishes for your end-of-life medical care, you may want to include an advanced directive in your estate plan. Or, if you have certain assets you want to shield from the probate process, a trust is a good tool that can help with that. If you are a business owner, you may want to create a succession plan to allow the transfer of ownership to proceed more smoothly. An attorney can examine your unique circumstances and advise on the tools that should be included in your plan.

MYTH: Drafting an Estate Plan is a ‘One and Done’ Process

Many people think that once they have created an estate plan, they can set it aside and never think about it again. This is simply not true. Estate plans need regular updating, and the documents within them are living documents and need to be changed whenever there is a major life change. Any time there is a birth, death, marriage, or other major change in your life, it is important to review your estate plan and update it when necessary. This is the only way to ensure your estate plan includes everything it should.

Call Our Estate Planning Lawyers in Houston Today

At Integrity Law Group, PLLC, our Houston estate planning lawyers can bust all the misconceptions about the process so you and your family are prepped for the future. Call us today at (832) 521-4201 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys and to learn more about how we can help with your case.

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