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Busting Common Myths about Estate Planning

One of the first things people say to me when they find out that I am an estate planning attorney is something along the lines of, “Oh! I need to do that, but I don’t have any assets, so it’s not worth it.” Truly, if I had a dollar for every time someone said this, I'd be very rich!

It’s amazing all of the misconceptions out there about estate planning, so I’m going to address some of the most common ones below.

1. Estate Planning is only for rich people.

This could not be further from the truth. Everyone, whether you’re a billionaire living on your own private island, or you’re in your early 20s and renting your first apartment, needs to have an estate plan. While there are different strategies to create an estate plan that suits you and your family’s needs, the end goal is the same: to ensure your wishes are carried out in the event of your death. If you do not have your estate plan properly executed before you die, all of your assets are going to be given to whoever is your closest relative according to state law. If you want to choose exactly who gets what, and make this process as easy on your family as possible, you must get your estate planning done.

2. No need to go to a lawyer! Just draft your will online.

When people come to our office to assist them in handling an estate for a loved one who recently passed away, one of the first things we do is ensure that the deceased person’s will is properly executed. After all, a will that’s not signed properly is the same as just not having a will at all. In Tennessee, wills need to be signed and notarized in front of two objective witnesses (people who are not mentioned in the document), for it to be valid. When I see people in the office with defective wills, a vast majority of the time they were drafted via some inexpensive website. Meeting with an attorney ensures that your estate plan fits your and your family’s needs, and the attorney can create a comprehensive estate plan tailored specifically to you. Doing it online is just simply not enough.

signing a trust during estate planning
3. All estate planning is about is money.

While yes, money and property are important aspects of estate planning, there is a lot more to the process. With my clients, I always create a very comprehensive estate plan that includes powers of attorney for legal and financial decisions, as well as for healthcare decisions, living wills to determine your end of life choices, provisions to determine guardianship of minor children, and the distribution of any certain personal items that hold sentimental value. With these accompanying documents, you are not only ensuring your wishes are properly carried out after you die, but ensuring that you are taken care of as you wish if you are to become incapacitated in the future.

4. Estate Planning is just for old people.

This might be my favorite one. As a young mom myself, I admit that right after my daughter was born, I rolled my eyes at my husband for suggesting that we write our estate plan. However, after going through the process for myself, I realized how important it is and how baffling it was that none of my friends at similar stages of life had theirs done. At that time, I decided to focus my practice on estate planning, so I could assist young families in getting their affairs in order. These are, frankly, not fun discussions to have, but they are so important. Unexpected accidents or illnesses can happen any time, and drafting your estate plan to ensure your wishes are clear should anything unforeseen happen is so important, whether you’re 25 or 75.

hillary samuels

Hillary Samuels is a native Memphian, specializing in Estate Planning and Family Law at HSK. She and her husband had their first baby in early 2022. After their daughter was born, Hillary realized how important it was to finalize their wills and other estate planning documents. She is currently accepting new clients, and you can reach her at hsamuels@harkavyshainberg.com or at 901-866-5333.

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