Estate Planning is often viewed as complicated and confusing, in part due to numerous misconceptions that color the public’s understanding of the practice area. The following are some examples of common misconceptions:
1. Misconception: “Having a Will avoids probate.”
Truth: A Will does not help you avoid the probate process. Rather, the Will informs the Probate Court of how you wish to have your assets distributed upon your death.
2. Misconception: “The Power of Attorney is able to handle the decedent’s Estate and related affairs.”
Truth: A Power of Attorney is not a person, but rather a document that designates authority over the decedent’s financial interests while the decedent is still living. The Attorney-in-Fact is the person named in the Power of Attorney. Upon the decedent’s death, the Attorney-in-Fact’s authority ends, meaning that he/she does not have the ability to handle the decedent’s Estate and related affairs.
3. Misconception: “Estate Plans aren’t flexible. Once created, it cannot be changed.”
Truth: Estate Planning documents are actually quite flexible and can be easily updated to reflect new life circumstances. In fact, Estate Planning documents should be reviewed at least every three to five years, or sooner upon major financial events such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child. It is important to maintain an Estate Plan to ensure the documents function as intended when needed.
4. Misconception: “Estate planning is only for older individuals.”
Truth: No one is too young to have their affairs in order when it comes to the uncertainties of life. A functioning Estate Plan is an easy way to plan for the future and provide your family with security should an unexpected event occur.
5. Misconception: “An individual automatically becomes the Executor/Personal Representative of the decedent’s Estate if he/she is named in the decedent’s Will.”
Truth: There are several steps that must happen before an individual named Executor/Personal Representative in the decedent’s Will is able to function in that capacity. Namely, the decedent’s Will must be admitted by court order to probate and the Letters Testamentary must be issued. Only then does the individual have the authority to act in the role of Executor/Personal Representative of the Estate.
In conclusion, Estate Planning can be a confusing area of law that is further complicated by public misconception. Hopefully this article provided helpful information that dispelled a few of the most misunderstood topics. At Chandler and Brown, Ltd. our knowledgeable estate planning attorneys would be happy to meet and determine the best plan for your individual situation in order to prepare you and your family for the future.