It is not fun to focus on death and illness or what will happen if the unexpected happens to you. Most of us avoid these types of discussions like a plague and try not to think about the future except in terms of goals and resolutions. But if you take a hot second and realistically look at your future, the obvious fact that we all sometimes get sick or die is just reality. Living in denial of truth and not planning for your future is just not smart.
Estate Planning is about determining ways you can help yourself and your family to live better if you become ill or pass away. It is time to put some thought into your future and that of your family. Let’s look at the 3 biggest myths about estate planning.
Myth # 1: Estate Planning is Complicated
Estate Planning is just a way of stating legally what your wishes for the future are should the unexpected happen. It’s just deciding how to plan for:
- Advanced Directives for your own health care so that your wishes are honored in emergencies that require resuscitation, IV nutrition, or ventilator.
- Aging issues or health events that might require assisted living. Decide how you want to live as you age. There are many options to choose from including continuing care retirement communities.
- Children who could need a guardian if you pass away.
- Beneficiary inheritance. This is done with a will and on your asset titling and beneficiary designations.
- Avoiding taxes and/or probate when you pass away.
With the help of a qualified estate planning attorney, you can just answer questions and let the attorney guide as you make knowledgeable decisions that take into consideration current laws and regulations. Your attorney can then draw up the documents, you sign, and an estate plan is born. You and your family are worth the effort to make a plan for your future. It is not as complicated as you might think.
Myth #2: Estate Planning is for Wealthy People
The words “estate planning” refer to plans for your future, regardless of wealth. This is not something that should be thought of as optional. You can either decide how you want to live if the unexpected happens or just wait and see what happens when courts, family members, and others make decisions for you.
Whether you have money or not is irrelevant to much of estate planning. There are so many issues to think about that are not about money.
For example, imagine you are in a car wreck or have a stroke and are incapacitated in a hospital. Would you want IV nutrition for months on end should your trauma turn into a coma? If you have no advanced directive about your wishes, the hospital is required to employ extreme life-saving measures such as resuscitation and IV nutrition even if there is not really hope of a good recovery for you. Would you want to continue life as a vegetable for years while family argues over the best way to make decisions for you? If you haven’t named an agent, the court will decide who makes the decisions for you.
Planning for old age is another issue that does not require you to be wealthy. Whether you start saving now or later, it is important to know your options and make a plan that is realistic for your financial situation.
Naming guardians for your children is another important decision that you make while estate planning. Young parents do sometimes pass away and leave behind children that end up in foster care or in court wondering if there is any family who will care for them.
Myth #3: My Will is Enough
A will is a good starting point when making your plan. However, there are other issues to look at before you stop planning.
First off, make sure that what you say in your will is also reflected in the way your accounts are titled. A jointly owned bank account or home with the right of survivorship goes to the other owner when you die. If your will says your bank account or home goes to all of your children equally, the child who owns the home or account jointly with you does NOT legally have to share with his/her siblings.
The same principle applies to retirement accounts. If you name a beneficiary on an account, the account will go to the person you name. Your beneficiary designations supersede your will.
Making only a will leaves quite a few holes in your planning. Consider what will happen if you:
- Die suddenly leaving behind dependents
- Have a medical event that leaves you incapacitated or incompetent
- Need long term care: “Someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports in their remaining years” according to LongTermCare.gov
Seize the Day
Now is the time to make a plan so that you don’t end up sick or dying wishing that you had given some thought to your future. Making a plan gives you the security of knowing how you will be cared for and what will happen to your family members if you are gone. You and your family deserve to have your wishes honored. If you don’t let anyone know what you want, it’s not likely that your desires for yourself or others will work out as you would envision.
An experienced estate planning attorney can help you draft your estate plan. Someone knowledgeable and focused on this type of planning knows what is best in your unique financial and familial situation. Seek legal advice and make your estate plan with ease knowing that you are in good hands who truly understand how to make a plan that will care for you and your family in the years to come.