Myths and Misconceptions About Estate Planning

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Estate Planning is a complicated area of the law where myths abound that can be harmful to you and your loved ones.  Below are some of the more common myths being perpetuated:

If I have a good Will, probate will not be required, and my assets can be transferred immediately to the beneficiaries of the Will.

In fact, having a Will guarantees a probate in most circumstances and the assets may not be transferred to your heirs for months or years.

Probate is a court proceeding to transfer title from the decedent’s name to the living beneficiaries.  Probate occurs in the state of your legal residence as well as any state where you own real property.  The length of time to complete a Probate varies from state to state, but can take six to eighteen months, on average. Probate is frustrating to the heirs, very costly and is all a part of the public record.

I don’t need a Will if I have a small estate.

Image of a will being signedMany people also believe that if there is no Will, all the decedent’s assets will be distributed to the surviving spouse.

If you don’t create a valid Will, the state of California has a statute that will dictate where your assets go and who will administer your estate.  State law may not distribute your assets to the people you want to have them.

If my assets do not exceed $600,000.00, I will avoid probate.

In California, if you have over $100,000 or real estate, your estate will probably require probate, unless you use a Living Trust or some other probate-avoidance technique.

A Will covers all my assets.

Wills do not cover assets held as joint tenancy or other forms of holding title with right of survivorship, retirement plans, annuities, life insurance, financial accounts with a payable on death (POD) or transfer on death (TOD) designation.

I can do my own estate plan.

Image of man at computerEstate planning is more than just creating documents.  It is understanding the big picture and how the legal documents will work together with the assets at the time they are needed.   One must be fully aware of current probate and tax law in order to assure the forms one is likely to use will facilitate the ultimate goal.

I don’t need an estate plan because I hold all my assets jointly with another.

In fact, this is one of the worst ways to plan you estate.  The asset may be exposed to estate and gift taxes; it does not avoid probate, just delays it until the last owner’s death; it may cause estate, gift and capital gains taxes; it is subject to the creditors of all owners; and it will result in the transfer of the property to the joint owner when one owner dies, even if that was not intended.

Now That You Know The Truth

You can’t afford to rely on myths when it comes to your estate. Find out the facts, plan carefully and execute a plan to provide you with peace of mind and security for your loved ones.

The most important part of estate planning is actually getting started. Please contact us at any time for a complimentary consultation at 805-277-5020 or e-mail

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Steven M. Greenwood, P.C.
2801 Townsgate Rd., Ste. 210
Westlake Village, CA 91361

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