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Dispelling Estate Planning Myths

Michael A. Siefert, P.A. Feb. 22, 2023

Man Holding a Card with Text "estate Plan"All of us have thought about our own death and what may happen with our possessions or assets. We may have even talked about this with our family and loved ones and conveyed our wishes to them verbally. However, simply talking over these issues with others is not enough and everyone should seriously consider establishing an estate plan that clearly lays out their wishes.  

The tricky part is that many people hold misconceptions about estate planning that may make them hesitate to start the process. If you’d like to learn more about these estate planning myths, or would like to take the first steps toward drafting a will or creating a trust, contact me at Michael A. Siefert, P.A. I’m happy to help clients in and around Ocala, Florida or anywhere throughout Marion County.   

Common Estate Planning Myths 

Estate planning isn’t necessary until you retire. 

If you wait to start estate planning until your retirement, it may be too late. The truth is, none of us know what will happen today or tomorrow. Any of us—regardless of age—can find ourselves in a tragic accident or diagnosed with a disease that either takes our life or leaves us incapacitated. The earlier you start your estate plan, the better. It allows you to establish a plan that you can later revisit and make changes to after you retire as your needs evolve.  

I don’t have enough assets to necessitate an estate plan. 

Many younger people falsely believe that they don't have enough wealth or assets to warrant writing out a will—but this is almost never the case.  

Assets can include things like vehicles, family heirlooms, insurance policies, and retirement funds. Plus, estate plans do much more than simply give away your assets. They also allow you to name a legal guardian for minor children and pets; outline your medical wishes should you become incapacitated or unable to communicate them; or assign power of attorney to an individual you trust to make legal, financial, and medical decisions on your behalf.   

Using an online form is just as effective as hiring an experienced attorney. 

Nowadays, you can find an online service for just about anything. This is true for drafting wills as well. And while these online forms or templates may seem easy, cost-effective, and straightforward, nothing can take the place of working with an experienced estate planning attorney who can thoroughly evaluate your specific needs and tailor an estate plan to your goals.  

If I don’t have a will, then my family will decide who gets what. 

When you die without a will in place (referred to as dying intestate), your estate must then go through the legal process of probate, where a judge will assign an administrator to handle your estate. This person is typically a family member, such as a surviving spouse or adult child.  

Your administrator will have to work with the courts and are usually required to follow state law on intestate succession. This is a predetermined list of heirs who will receive your assets if you haven’t left a will stipulating other wishes. In Florida, this means that if you die with children but no spouse, your children get everything; if you have a spouse but not children, your spouse gets everything; or, if you have a spouse and children with that spouse, your spouse gets everything.   

If I have a will, my estate won’t have to go through probate. 

Most wills have to go through probate. In Florida, there are exceptions for certain types of assets, such as: 

  • Household furniture and appliances under a total value of $20,000 

  • Multiple motor vehicles  

  • Certain tuition programs 

These assets, if they qualify, will be considered as exempt property. Additionally, any assets you hold jointly will not have to go through probate and can be automatically transferred to the other owner. This is commonly seen with spouses. 

A will is the only thing that I need in my estate plan. 

A will is an ideal place to start when drafting an estate plan, but it's in your best interest to explore other documents as well. For instance, many people also wish to include an advance directive. This document allows you to write out your medical wishes should you become incapacitated or unable to communicate. This could include details about end-of-life care, what procedures you do and do not want, whether you want to be intubated, or what kind of facilities you do or do not want to be in. Another important document is called a power of attorney. This gives legal authority to someone to make decisions on your behalf if you’re no longer able to.  

Seek Trusted Legal Guidance  

If you’re in Ocala, Florida, or the surrounding areas, and would like to learn more about your options for drafting an estate plan, reach out to my firm — Michael A. Siefert, P.A. — to get started today.