Here at Alex R. Hernandez Jr. Business Law, one of our many practice areas is elder law and estate planning. As your estate planning lawyer, we can handle most legal matters surrounding the distribution of your assets and end-of-life care including power of attorney, medical directives, wills, trusts, and estates. We can also provide trust and probate litigation if you are currently involved in a probate or trust dispute and need the help of a skilled litigator.
There are a lot of misconceptions about estate planning. Many people think that estate planning isn’t for them, or that they do not need to meet with an estate planning lawyer. In today’s blog, we are going to be debunking some of these myths and misconceptions to give you a better understanding of how an estate planning attorney can help you be better prepared for the future.
An estate planning lawyer can help with a number of circumstances. Whether you have questions about estate planning or need to update your existing documents, we can help. Now, keep reading as we debunk some common myths and misconceptions that people have about planning their estate.
Myths About Estate Planning
Myth: Only wealthy people need an estate planning lawyer.
While it is true that many wealthy people might think more about where their money and possessions will go after they pass, estate planning is for everybody. Your estate is your total net worth and includes your home, your car, your life insurance policy, your personal property, your 401(K), and anything else you own or have money in. Additionally, estate planning covers so much more than monetary and physical assets. Estate planning can cover how your finances and health care will be covered if you become unable to make your own decisions and who will take care of any minor children if you pass suddenly.
Myth: I’m too young to start estate planning.
No one knows when their last moment will be. That means estate planning should start early and your will and trusts should be updated throughout the years as your financial and personal situations change. If you have young children, a will can dictate who their guardian will be if something happens to both parents. Often times the hardest moment a person will face is when a loved one passes unexpectedly. Having an estate plan can help family members cope with an unexpected loss by giving them direction when they otherwise don’t know what to do.
Myth: My will only covers my physical and monetary assets.
There are different types of wills. One such type is called a living will. A living will dictates how end-of-life care should be provided. This means if you are incapacitated, for example if you are on life support, and are unable to make decisions about your healthcare, your living will outlines what type of care you do or do not want and who gets to make those decisions for you. Without this, state law will determine who gets to make decisions about your healthcare. Based on where you live, this could be a spouse or domestic partner, an adult child, or a parent. Your family members may end up in long court battles an suffer emotional distress if they disagree on who should be able to make decisions or what decisions should be made, such as the decision to take you off of life support or continue your life with artificial means. Ultimately, this emotional time will be easier for your family if they know what your wishes are.
Myth: If I have a will, I can avoid probate.
Unfortunately, even a last will and testament cannot avoid probate — the process of challenging provisions made in the last will and testament or proving that said will and testament are legitimate. Probate litigation can happen even if you have already gone through estate planning. However, having a thorough estate plan in place can make this process shorter for your family and could help more of your wishes be fulfilled. Probate litigation can refer to challenges made to the validity of a will, suits regarding the wording of wills and trusts, contests over whether or not a guardian should be appointed for an individual who has not appointed a power of attorney, suits brought to invalidate a trust because the purpose of the trust has become impractical, among others. If you have property in different states, each property might go through probate in that state.
Myth: I don’t have an estate plan if I haven’t made one.
If you think you don’t have an estate plan, you’re wrong. Even if you’ve never spoken with a probate lawyer in your life, there is still a plan in place for how your belongings will be divided up and who can make end-of-life decisions for you. The state and the courts have a plan for you. So you can either let the state decide what to do with your assets and life, or you can make that decision.
Myth: If I die without a will, the state will get everything.
Dying without a will is also called dying “intestate.” Each state has different laws on how to handle this, called intestacy laws. These laws determine how your assets are distributed and include bank accounts and real estate, among other assets. There are laws of succession depending on if you are married, have children, single, are part of an unmarried couple who was living together at the time of death, had a domestic partner, and so forth. In short, this goes back to the previous myth and that it is better for you to decide where your assets go.
Myth: My estate plan legally overrides my 401(K) and life insurance beneficiaries.
The beneficiaries you have listed on your 401(K), life insurance, IRA accounts, and other documents will supersede those you have listed in your will. Even if the beneficiary is deceased or is an ex-spouse, the last update you made to your beneficiaries will be where the assets go. That means while planning your estate, you will also need to go into these accounts and update the beneficiary designations. Your estate planning lawyer can further discuss this with you.
Myth: I can just leave all of my stuff to my spouse.
Your estate plan will account for multiple scenarios. One of which is what happens if your main beneficiary passes before, or at the same time, as you. You never know when your circumstances will change and ensuring that your estate plan has a contingency plan can better ensure your assets go where you want them to. There are a lot of delicacies when it comes to estate planning, and a skilled estate lawyer will be able to make sure all of your bases are covered, so to speak.
Contact An Estate Planning Lawyer Today
Estate planning can be complicated, but thankfully, you’re not expected to be expert at it. That’s where we come in! No one likes talking about the end of their life, but having an understanding team of legal experts on your side can make it seem a lot less stressful.
At Alex R. Hernandez Jr., Business Law, we can help you prepare for your future by creating an estate plan that gives you control over what happens near the end of your life. Get in touch with our estate planning lawyer today to start preparing for the future!
We are thrilled to bring our estate and probate legal services to Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Austin, Victoria, and the surrounding areas in Texas. To better serve our clients, we have members of our team who are fluent in Spanish. You can contact us by phone or text, or fill out our contact form to let us know how our team can serve you.