Don't Fall for these Common Estate Planing Urban Myths

Myth #1 - You don't need a will unless you're old.

No one knows the future. Unfortunately, tragedy can happen at any age. I have assisted several clients who have had the misfortune to lose a child. On top of these tragedies, the family had to deal with intestacy because these young adults (like many other young adults) did not have wills. It doesn't occur to them that once you turn eighteen, you need estate planning documents just like a thirty-year old. If you are injured or become incapacitated due to illness, your parents cannot make financial or healthcare decisions for you and a court will need to appoint an adult guardian. Moreover, without a will, you will not have a say about your property or personal representative. State law will control. Intestacy is more difficult than probating a will and it may require your executor post a bond in the amount of your estate assets in order to be appointed. This can be a financial hardship on your family.

If you have children, not having a will is even more dangerous. Without a will, you will not have a say in the appointment of a guardian for your children. Many times a court will look to a close relative to serve as guardian of children who have lost a parent. However, you may not want your closest relative to raise your children. Don't leave your children's future up to a court; get a will!

Reality - If you are eighteen or older, you need a will, healthcare power of attorney, financial power of attorney, and living will. 

Myth #2 - You can add your kids to your deed to avoid probate.

Adding your children to your deed is not a good way to avoid probate because you are simply trading one set of problems for another. At best, you may have problems getting everyone to agree and cooperate if you want to sell the property in the future. At worst, you can lose the roof over your head when your home is lost to your child's creditors and predators. These predators include your child's divorcing spouse. Your home can actually become a marital asset in your child's divorce or a bankruptcy asset. Even if that doesn't happen, if your child predeceases you, you can find yourself sharing ownership of the house with your child's surviving spouse. These outcomes can be far worse than probate. 

Reality - Talk to an attorney before you add a child to your deed. There are usually better options.

Myth #3- You should wait until you are sick and know you will die before you execute estate planning documents and a power of attorney.

The best time to do your estate planning is now and preferably when you are young(er), healthy and strong. That is when you can make the best decisions and have the time and perspective you need for good planning. If you wait until you get sick to do an estate plan, not only could your decision-making ability be impaired but you may be barred from signing any documents at all due to a lack of capacity. If you are lucky and still have capacity, the fact that you are sick may make you more susceptible to undue influence and pressure from family members. Your estate plan should never be the product of fear or pressure. Having a plan in place while you are healthy may even protect you from undue influence later. Keep in mind, the older you are and the sicker you are when you sign estate planning documents, the more likely your estate is to be challenged.  It is critical to get an estate plan before you have a health problem and are incapacitated. 

Reality - This myth can prevent you from ever getting an estate plan! 

We're here to help. If you are ready to get started or have questions about where to begin, call 704.887.5242 to schedule a meeting with Nancy.

Nancy Roberts
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