Whenever you work long enough in a selected profession, you often find that there are common questions that arise and many times common misconceptions as well. Estate planning is no different. Here are five of the common misconceptions about this area of law:
"If I have a will, I will avoid the probate process, right?" Wrong! A Last Will and Testament will not help you avoid the probate process. A Last Will and Testament only informs the Probate Court how you wish to have your assets distributed upon your death.
"I can handle a decedent's Estate because I am the Power of Attorney." False. A Power of Attorney is a document that applies only during a person's lifetime. As soon as that person passes away, your authority ceases to exist. If you continue taking actions after a person passes away, you could become legally liable for actions taken.
"I heard a revocable trust protects my assets from the nursing home. Is that true?" Unfortunately, no. A revocable trust will not give you protection from the costs of nursing home care. A slightly different trust, called an irrevocable trust, can offer such protections, but it comes with a number of factors worth considering to see if such a tool is right for you. There are certainly other reasons to consider a revocable trust, but nursing home care protection is not one of them.
"Should I be worried about estate taxes?" While there may be taxes due at your passing, the estate tax (also called the death tax) is unlikely to be one of them. Under the 2017 Estate Tax rules, each individual can pass up to $5,490,000.00 at their death without having to pay any estate taxes. This high exemption level means that a very small percentage of the population will have to pay estate taxes.
"I do not need to have a trust because I am not wealthy." Wealth oftentimes has little to do with whether you would like a trust or not. More important, is evaluating whether the efficiencies of avoiding the probate process and avoiding potential conflict and time for your heirs, justifies the creation of a trust.