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Busting 8 Common Myths About Estate Planning

Oct-17 2022

Do you continue to postpone creating your will or other directives because you find estate planning confusing? Or too expensive? Or even unnecessary? Don’t worry, you're not the only one. And we're here to set the record straight as part of National Estate-Planning Awareness Week. Remember: 2/3 of Americans (or about 140 million people) don't have a will. Are you one of them?

The Top 8 Myths About Estate Planning

Myth 1: Only elderly people need estate planning.

Reality: No one is too young to have a will.

Often when we hear or think about the word "will" we tend not to pay much attention to it on the basis that we're not the right audience. The truth is, you're never too young to have a will. Life is unpredictable. Consequently, having a will can be a precious tool to have. A will allow you to prepare yourself so that you are not in distress the day you need it. Apart from the fact that it gives you a choice to decide in advance to whom you want to entrust your belongings and assets it also allows you to relieve your loved ones of a long and difficult burden. Plus if you have children then assigning guardianship is a must ASAP within a will.

Myth 2: Only people who have major physical assets write wills.

Reality: No matter how much money or property you have, there is a good chance you will leave a trail of confusion if you die suddenly.

Chances are you will leave behind an inheritance. It can be a financial asset (cash, including money in checking accounts, savings accounts, and money market accounts), or intangible assets such as property, stock, bonds, IP, royalties, copyright, and so on. Maybe even heirlooms or personal objects that have meaning to you or others.

A will allows you to decide how and by whom you want these affairs to be handled. And it eliminates any of the uncertainty with regards to your wishes. Even with the "smallest" items.

Myth 3: The legal system will take care of my assets if I pass away and my loved ones will simply receive my property and money without question.  

Reality: No. The legal system will take care of your assets but can not respect your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets.

The members of your family left behind can be appointed in a will as beneficiaries of your estate, but that may not always mean that they will get what you want. It is the law that decides who gets what in the event of your death, so implementing some legal protections is essential to ensure that your wishes are respected. It can also be time-consuming, emotional, and stressful to leave any decisions to the courts or others.

Myth 4: It's too complicated to understand estate planning.

Reality: Estate planning does not need to be complicated at all!

“I don’t even know where I should start” is what we usually hear when we ask about estate planning. The reason behind it is that a lot of misinformation is being spread about estate planning. The creation of a will is unique to each individual, and therefore it does not seem appropriate to compare the experiences of each person on such a singular task. But doing nothing is not a strategy.

“Our mission is to leverage technology for good and make end-of-life planning simple, affordable, and accessible”, says Rikard Steiber, CEO of GoodTrust.

We recommend checking out our Ultimate Guide, which will help you navigate everything you need from creating your list of goals to drafting your wills and directives to creating a bucket list and more. 

Myth 5: The whole process of writing a will is expensive.

Reality: It doesn’t have to be. And it isn't with GoodTrust.

We live in a time when consulting an expensive lawyer to draft your will is no longer a thing. There are individuals with complicated estates who may hire a lawyer and an estate planner to provide specialized advice. However, this is not necessary for most of us, unless our estate is complicated. Most people don't need expensive advice to make a will. You can draft a will quickly, easily, and inexpensively by using GoodTrust. You can even start creating your will for free. You'll need to start a Premium account to download and legalize your will but even then the cost is relatively inexpensive. Your Premium account will also give you access to unlimited updates to your will and directives. Not to mention all the invaluable peace of mind.

Myth 6: Once I’m done writing my estate plan, I don’t need to make changes.

Reality: Your life changes. Therefore your estate plan is subject to change.

Your life circumstances and desires are subject to change.  Accordingly, it becomes appropriate to include these changes in your will. Good examples can be that you’ve sold your home and bought another one, perhaps you moved to another state, you financial assets may have changed, or your charity-relationships may have changed and so on. There are many reasons why you would want to update your will. It is recommended to review a will every three to five years. With GoodTrust, you can make as many changes as you want on your will and share it with the right people.

Myth 7: A will cannot be contested after the person has died. 

Reality: False. 

A will can be contested for several reasons. If the will was written undue influence it can therefore be contested as the decedent was forced to make changes to their estate. Suspected fraud or forgery are other examples. Lack of capacity occurs when the decedent had not been mentally competent enough to execute an estate plan when they did. Elder abuse is when financial, physical or psychological abuse had been perpetrated against the decedent and it had played a role in their signing of a new will or codicil. 

If the grounds for contesting a will do not fall within the parameters outlined above, then it is highly unlikely that you will be able to contest the will. Regardless, you should consult with a trust and estate lawyer about the will in question before making a determination on its validity on your own. 

Myth 8: Wills are only written with a notary.

Reality: A will generated on a piece of paper with a date and valid signatures. Just because a will is written by hand doesn't mean it can't be challenged. 

You don’t need to be with an estate lawyer to write your will. To make a will valid, you will need to follow these three steps: 

  • The testator, or person making the will, must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. 

  • The will must be in writing, signed by the testator or by someone else at the testator’s direction and in their presence. It must also be signed by at least two witnesses. 

  • The will must be notarized. Otherwise, certain conditions must be met to determine its veracity.

As you may see, there are a lot of misconceptions about Estate Planning. Will are not only for elders and wealthy individuals, they are for everyone. Estate planning documents are valuable documents that will help you and your loved ones protect what matters the most to you. Learn more here