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Common Misconceptions About Estate Planning

Posted on March 8, 2022

In a world where so much information is so easily accessible, you might believe you fully understand estate planning. Unfortunately, not everything you read or hear is accurate. If you have been delaying the estate planning process based on common misconceptions, you would be wise to get the facts. Not fully understanding the facts about estate planning is probably the reason that two out of three adults don’t have even a basic will.

But estate planning is not just about having a will or trust. Estate planning also involves powers of attorney, healthcare directives, guardianship appointments for minor children and incapacitated adults, business succession plans, and more. There are certain legal documents every adult should have in place, tailored to their specific wishes, because no one knows when they will need them.

With over 30 years of combined experience, we have the resources and skills needed to help individuals and families of all ages and types build their estate plans. Contact TdD Attorneys at Law for all your estate planning needs if you’re located in or around St. Louis and Chesterfield, Missouri.

Common Estate Planning Misconceptions

With every estate plan, we start with the facts. Here are some common misconceptions about estate planning and why they are false.

I don’t need an estate plan until I retire.

You don’t wait until you retire to develop a retirement plan. You should begin that process early in your working career. Similarly, you should not wait until you retire to develop your estate plan, primarily because you don’t know when you will need it. You could die or become incapacitated well before you reach retirement age. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor by creating your estate plan and updating it throughout your life as circumstances change.

I don’t have enough assets to warrant an estate plan.

It is true that the more assets you have, the more complex your estate plan will likely be. However, even if you own nothing outright, you should at least have a will. If you have no will, you will die “intestate.” The probate court will appoint someone to serve as executor of your estate and will determine what happens to your debts and personal property. You may have few assets, but the distribution of whatever personal property you do have will be determined by the court.

I can just fill out a will online to save myself the cost of hiring an attorney.

You can find a plethora of discounted online wills, but you get what you pay for. First, even if the online provider states the document will be valid in Missouri, it may not be. You may neglect to address some important assets in it. Moreover, you may not have the signatures and dates required to fully execute the will.

An experienced estate planning attorney will ask the questions necessary to address all aspects of your will and ensure it is executed properly under Missouri law. In addition, your attorney will help you keep your will and other estate planning documents up-to-date when life events warrant they change, such as marriage, divorce, having children, or starting a business. Hiring an attorney will be well worth the investment to make sure your will holds up in court.

If I don’t have a will, my family will just work out who gets what.

There are only two people who can decide what happens to your debts and assets when you die: you and the probate judge. Your family is not allowed to make those decisions if you die intestate. The probate judge will use Missouri law to guide those decisions, such as the laws of intestate succession.

Intestate succession establishes a “pecking order” of family members entitled to inherit from your estate, whether you want them to or not. If you want to leave something to someone who is not a family member, such as a partner, friend, or charity, that will not happen unless you have expressed that wish in a will. In fact, dying intestate and having no relatives who can inherit under the laws of intestate succession means your estate will go to the State of Missouri.

If I do have a will, nothing will need to go through probate.

Wills are subject to the probate process which verifies their validity and oversees the proper administration of the estate. The process will be easier and faster if you have a will than it would be if your estate is intestate. Challenges to your will can slow down the process which is why an attorney-drafted document is a smart way to create one. You can avoid probate by creating a living trust, another estate planning tool.

A will is the only document I need in an estate plan.

Wills are just one type of estate planning document. While they have their purpose, there are other tools that accomplish other goals. For example, an advance healthcare directive allows you to choose what medical interventions and treatments you want and do not want should you become unable to communicate those on your own.

Powers of attorney can ensure that if you need someone else to make certain business decisions for you, they can. A healthcare power of attorney allows you to make the decision about who can address your medical and personal care if you cannot.

A business succession plan provides for the future of your business should you retire, pass away, or become incapacitated.

Trusts, as stated previously, may help you avoid probate and maintain the confidentiality of your assets and beneficiaries. An experienced estate planning attorney will listen to your goals, help you inventory your assets, and guide you through the tools at your disposal.

Getting the Experienced Legal Guidance
You Need

I hope that you are convinced that consulting an experienced estate planning attorney is a smart decision and that it is never too early to execute at least some basic estate planning documents. Begin planning for your future by contacting TdD Attorneys at Law today.

If you live in St. Louis or Chesterfield, Missouri, TdD Attorneys at Law is ready to help. All you need to do is call today to get started.