October 2017

Three Estate Planning Myths

1. Myth #1: I don't need an estate plan because I've heard Trump is going to eliminate the estate tax. While the truth of this assertion has yet to be confirmed, even a full repeal of the estate tax would not eliminate the need for a proper estate plan. Repeal of the estate tax will only benefit those who actually die during the period it lasts. History has shown new administrations can have different priorities that change this tax. Maybe more importantly, your plan does a great deal beyond attempting to minimize taxes; it also names key players (e.g., guardians for your children, financial and health care agents) and the recipients of your property after death.

2. Myth #2: I don't need an estate plan because I already have one. You've thought it through before, so why do it all over again? The truth is that we often encounter clients who are surprised to discover their estate plans from years before do not adequately meet their current needs. For example, there are new assets, children have been born or become adults since then, or the person named as their executor or health care agent is no longer able to serve in such a role. We recommend a regular review of your estate plan at least every 3-5 years.

3. Myth #3: I don't need an estate plan because my family members know my wishes. Okay, most concede that this strategy is a little weak, but still it seems to make it easier to procrastinate. You cannot assume family members will know your desires and carry them out. Wishes regarding how you want things to happen after your death should be clearly written and witnessed and notarized appropriately. Family dynamics shift over the years and, let's face it, your surviving family members will be forced to deal with third parties, such as banks and insurance companies, who will require valid legal documentation of your wishes.