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5 Common myths about estate planning

It can be confusing to think about wills, trusts, health care directives and powers of attorney, but it is important to consider estate planning sooner rather than later. Do it for your family instead of leaving the state a portion of your estate when you die. Here are five common misunderstandings about estate planning to help you see the value in having a plan for your assets.

Myth: It costs too much to hire an attorney.

Truth: Although there is a price to pay for an attorney, the price to pay for being without a plan could be much costlier. This largely depends on the size of your estate and how complex your family situation is. If you have stepchildren or a live-in partner, the state might not recognize them in probate unless you put them in your will.

Myth: "I do not have enough assets to warrant an estate plan."

Truth: An estate plan encompasses much more than just a will for your assets. It is also about planning for old age, for your children before they turn 18 and for your own health care and legal issues in case you become incapacitated.

Myth: "My family knows my wishes. I do not need a will."

Truth: Oral wills are a poor substitute for a written will. There are many limitations which govern oral bequests. In addition, your spouse and children do not have to honor those requests.

Myth: "I have a will. I do not need to do anything else."

Truth: Once you have a solid estate plan, you can rest easier knowing that your family will have less of a struggle at your death. However, you should review your will periodically. Circumstances change. Your desires and wishes may change as you go through these life changes. Finally, the law changes. Working with an estate planning attorney can help you stay informed.

Myth: If you die without a will, the government seizes your assets.

Truth: Every state has strict guidelines about who benefits from your estate. Typically, the surviving spouse receives everything, but your estate could be shared with your children. A will can minimize the time it takes to move your estate through probate. It allows your family to have access to your estate quicker than if you do not have a will.

Take control of your assets

Estate planning puts you in the driver's seat of planning for your future. Without a will, health care directive and/or living will, the court makes the decisions for you. Know your options by talking to an attorney experienced in estate planning.

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