What’s the most frequently misunderstood field of financial planning? For all the complexities that retirement and college tuition planning bring, many advisors would likely say that estate planning is even further clouded by misinformation. Perhaps the reason for this is that it’s simply less pleasant to talk about: When we talk about estate planning we are talking about our own mortality, and that’s a heavy topic no matter where we are in life.
Perhaps a better way to think about it is this: When we talk about estate planning we are talking about ways to serve our family members; ways to offer them peace of mind; ways to leave a legacy. Thus, it is important to talk about estate planning, and to do so truthfully and accurately.
This means breaking down some of the most common myths and misconceptions—including the four that follow.
“Estate Planning is Just for the Wealthy.”
It is tempting to think that you don’t need estate planning when you feel like your estate isn’t very big. The common picture that people have of estate planning is that it’s all about finding ways to mitigate the estate tax, but there is really much more to it than that, and it touches all of us—not just the very wealthy. Estate planning includes making decisions about what will happen to us should we become incapacitated. It includes ensuring that all of our finances are taken care of—debts paid off—when we die, rather than being passed down to our children. It’s about ensuring that all of your assets—no matter how minor you may think they are—are used in a way that truly helps your family members, rather than just burdening them.
These are considerations that impact all of us, whether we have a particularly large estate or a more modest one.
“Estate Planning is Just for the Old.”
It’s easy enough to put off estate planning because we assume we’ll have time for it down the road—but at the risk of being morbid, none of us have that guarantee. Even recently there have been stories in the news of celebrities who died young and left behind disorganized estate plans, which only created further hardship for their survivors. Estate planning is something to do now.
“All I Need for My Estate Plan is a Will.”
Even those of us who are skeptical about estate planning might at least acknowledge the need for a will—and a will is important to have. It addresses many questions about your ultimate financial legacy, but not all of them. You also want to make sure you have the proper documents in place to dictate how you want healthcare decisions made, should it become necessary.
There are a number of considerations and several different documents you’ll want to prepare for your estate plan; an advisor or attorney can help you determine exactly what you need, but a will alone is likely insufficient.
“My Estate Planning is Done.”
Your estate planning is never truly done; there will always be a need to review it and, as your family or your estate changes, to revise it. A woefully out-of-date estate plan is going to be of little use to your family, and it may mean that your full wishes are not carried out upon your passing.
Estate planning is not something to delay and not something to undervalue. To learn more, we invite you to contact Stonepath Wealth Management today. Cambridge does not provide legal advice.