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Idaho Estate Planning Estate Planning Myths That Need to be Obliterated - Part 1

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

In my experience, estate planning is a simple process where a person considers the money, property, and other assets they have in their estate, their family circumstances, loved ones, and then decide what it is they would like to accomplish both while they are alive and after they pass away.

However, for those who do not deal with estate planning regularly, there’s often misconceptions and misunderstandings about what is involved. Additionally, there are emotions involved as well as well-meaning family members or friends who provide misinformation. All of these things play into decisions people make when it comes to estate planning.

I’ve found over the years that the misconceptions, misunderstandings, and misinformation that my clients often consider, lead to myths about estate planning that are simply not true. The purpose of this article, as a part 1, is to obliterate or get rid of some of the myths that exist when it comes to estate planning. This is a part 1, which means that over the coming weeks we will debunk additional myths.

If you have specific questions or concerns, we can help. We invite you to download our free Estate Planning Questionnaire which is the best place to start when it comes to creating your own estate plan. This document makes it easy for you to pull together all the information you should be considering when it comes to thinking about your own estate plan. We can then schedule a free 30-minute consultation to go over your questionnaire and to answer your specific questions.

Now, on to the myths that need to be debunked. This article starts with three of the most common myths I often hear from clients.

Estate Planning is Only for the Wealthy

The myth that I hear the most often is that estate planning is only for the wealthy. In other words, many people believe that if you are not wealthy, that you don’t need estate planning. This is absolutely false.

A basic estate plan includes a last will and testament, a durable power of attorney, health care power of attorney, and a living will. Three of these documents are specifically designed to protect you while you are alive. It is only your last will and testament that actually becomes valid after you die.

Estate planning is way more than just who gets your stuff. If you have Alzheimer’s, or a stroke, or if you are placed on life support towards the end of your life, the estate planning documents listed above give you the ability to leave specific instructions to the world about what it is you do and don’t want.

Additionally, you have the ability to nominate people who can step in and take care of your money, property, and other assets as well as dealing with your debts and other basic life things if you are unable to do it yourself. Your estate planning documents give these individuals legal authority to do these things for you. If you don’t have these documents, and any of these needs suddenly arise, then your family is forced to do a guardianship and conservatorship hearing through a court. This is often an expensive process that also could lead to a family fight about who would be the best person to be appointed. The real key to understand though is that you no longer have any say about what happens or who is appointed.

In addition to yourself, you may have others that you should be caring for as well through your estate plan. If you are a parent of young children, then you should use your estate-planning as a way of nominating a guardian for your children if you were to pass away while they are still young. Additionally, you can use your estate planning documents to provide and care for your children financially until they reach an age where they can receive what you have left for them and then take care of themselves.

So, as you can see from just the basic examples listed above, estate planning is something that everyone needs. A person’s wealth level really does not matter.

All Attorneys are the Same When it Comes to Estate Planning

The next most common myth I see is that people needing estate planning done for them believe that all attorneys are the same when it comes to creating an estate plan. Again, this is simply not true. The law, like many things in life, is diverse and complex. There is no attorney that can know and do everything well. Just as in medicine, or mechanics, or engineering, or teaching, or really any other aspect of life, attorneys tend to specialize. In other words, they tend to focus on those areas of law that they do well.

Some attorneys hold themselves out as general practitioners. These attorneys will do divorces, they will do contracts, they will do employment law, and they will do criminal work. These attorneys may try to convince you that they can do all of these things and also do estate planning. The reality of it is, they can’t. At least not well.

I’m guessing that you wouldn’t go to a heart surgeon if you needed a knee replacement. Likewise, you wouldn’t go to an electrical engineer if you needed plans drawn up to build a bridge. Similarly, even if the attorney is your friend, and even if they mean well, if they don’t specialize in estate planning, then you shouldn’t use them to get your estate plan done.

I’ve had numerous clients come to my office with their written estate plans created by other attorneys that were complete junk. These plans did not meet the specific needs of my client or their family and loved ones. Most often, these estate plans had to be redone to accomplish what it was the clients really needed.

I Need a Trust as Part of My Estate Plan

The third most common myth I hear regularly is that my clients believe they need a trust as part of their estate plan. Perhaps their parents had a trust. Or maybe they have friends who live in another state, who had a trust created for themselves. Because of this, my clients may believe that they need a trust too.

The good news is, we can help you decide whether you need a trust pretty quickly. Page 10 of our free Estate Planning Questionnaire goes through several specific questions and scenarios to help you determine whether in fact you need a trust or not. The reality is most people don’t need a trust.

After reviewing the Questionnaire and speaking with my clients, I often tell them that they don’t need a trust. If you don’t need one, I’m not going to create one for you needlessly. I don’t appreciate attorneys and other professionals who take advantage of clients and create unnecessary and often overly complex estate planning documents that provide no benefits.

If you don’t need a trust, we do not try to push one on you. Rather, our goal is to create the simplest estate plan for you possible that will meet all your needs and accomplish everything you want.

So, there you have it. The first three big estate planning myths are now debunked. Additional articles will follow that will do the same thing with other myths. However, if you do have specific questions, we would be happy to meet with you during a free 30-minute consultation to answer your questions and help you understand more about your own personal estate planning. We have assisted numerous clients and we are confident we can help you too!

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho estate planning problems.

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