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Estate planning myths

Many people in Indiana believe that they do not need an Estate Plan for one reason or another. However, the vast majority of the time, the reasons given for not having or preparing an Estate Plan are in fact untrue and an Estate Plan should be prepared. Below is a list of examples of myths as to why people believe that they do not need an Estate Plan

Myth #1: I am married and have little to no assets. Therefore I do not need a Will or an Estate Plan.
Without a Will, your estate will be distributed according to Indiana law and such distribution may not be the way you want your assets to be distributed. If you are married and have children from a previous marriage, without a Will, your spouse will not receive all of your assets. In addition, your estate plan should include documents to appoint people to help you in the event you become incapacitated and cannot make healthcare or financial decisions for yourself any longer.

Myth #2: My family all gets along. Therefore, I do not need a Will.
Having an estate plan makes it easier for the family, even if they do get along. No one is left making difficult decisions about what to do with your assets while also grieving. Unfortunately, the stress caused by a death can make even the closest of families argue over the distribution of an estate.

Myth #3: If I sign a Power of Attorney, I automatically give up all of my decision-making abilities regarding my finances and health.
This is false. These documents can be drafted so that these powers do not go into effect until certain things happen, such as you become incapacitated.

Myth #4: I do not have children. Therefore, I do not need a Will.
Without an estate plan, Indiana laws will determine who is going to receive your assets, your personal property, your bank accounts, and so forth. The people you want to receive your assets may not be the people who are entitled to your assets under Indiana law. In addition, it is always a good idea to have someone appointed to act on your behalf in the event you are incapacitated.

Myth #5: I wrote my wishes down on a piece of paper; that should be enough
False. Indiana has certain legal requirements that must be included in a Will for the Will to be legally valid and binding. If those requirements are not met, the Will cannot be upheld.

Myth #6: I am young. Therefore, I do not need a Will.
It is never a bad idea to have certain estate plan documents lined up in the event something unexpected happens to you, such as an incapacitating injury from an accident. This helps your friends and family know what kind of care you want, or at least appoints someone to make sure your wishes are followed.

Myth #7: I had a plan prepared years ago. Therefore, I do not need to do anything else.
It is advisable to review and update your estate plan every 3-5 years. We all have changes or shifts in priorities in our lives and those changes and shifts may impact the estate plan you have. In addition, the laws change overtime, especially the laws associated with Federal Estate taxes, and your plan may no longer meet your goals.

Myth #8: Everything goes to my spouse and kids anyway; so I don’t need a Will.
The Indiana intestate laws likely do not divide your assets the way you would want that to be done. For instance, if you die leaving behind a spouse and children with no Will, pursuant to Indiana law, your spouse does not inherit all of your assets. Instead, your spouse and your children each take a certain percentage. Furthermore, it may not be wise to have a young adult, such as an 18 year old, inherit lump sums of money.

Myth #9: Using payable on death accounts and transfer on death deeds is enough to cover what I need and therefore I do not need an Estate Plan.
An estate plan is more than figuring out what to do with your assets. Payable on death accounts do not take care of putting someone in charge of making healthcare decisions and/or financial decisions on your behalf if you should become incapacitated. These accounts do not set forth who you want to be the guardian of your minor children. In addition, if later on down the road you have more children, a new spouse, or someone else in your life who you want to receive part of your estate when you die, and you do not update these accounts, that person will not receive anything.

*Disclaimer: The author is licensed to practice in the state of Indiana. The information contained above is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. Laws vary by state and region. Furthermore, the law is constantly changing. Thus, the information above may no longer be accurate at this time. No reader of this content, clients or otherwise, should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included herein without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue.