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6 myths about estate planning

You've never done your estate planning, despite knowing that it's definitely going to be needed eventually and knowing that having no plan in place puts your estate at risk.

Part of the reason is that you've heard a lot of contradictory information about estate planning. What is myth and what is reality? It gets overwhelming trying to sort it all out, so you keep putting it off.

To help, here are six common myths you need to watch out for.

1. You can make everyone happy.

It's a nice goal to shoot for, but it's not always realistic. Maybe you have a son and a daughter, for instance. They both love your family home and hope to get it for their own families. It just won't happen. Remember that you need to make the decisions you think are best, even if some people aren't thrilled.

2. You can do it all yourself.

Actually, communication is critical. You can do it all yourself, of course, but this often leads to disagreements between siblings when they don't like what you did. Communicating in advance can eliminate some of those disagreements by exposing issues early and ensuring everyone is on the same page.

3. When estate planning is done, it's done.

You really need to update it frequently. The documents must reflect life changes. You get divorced or remarried. A new grandchild is born. One of your children winds up in jail. All of these things can impact how you want to distribute your estate.

4. Rich people need estate planning, but no one else.

Everyone needs to do estate planning. Yes, it can be more complicated for the wealthy and they're often more conscious of it due to their increased assets, but anyone with any assets needs to do something to pass those assets on. It doesn't matter if you're splitting up $10 million or $10,000.

5. Insurance policies pay out in accordance with the will.

They don't. Life insurance pays out to the beneficiary that you named. You can write whatever you want in your will, but the insurance company is still going to follow the last directions you gave them. If you want to change the beneficiary, update the will and your insurance papers.

6. Your family can take care of it.

They can, but you shouldn't put this on them. Sure, everyone gets along now. After the parents pass away, though, it would surprise you how many siblings fight over the assets. If you don't give them instructions, those fights could create a rift that lasts for life.

As you can see, estate planning is terrifically important. Stop putting it off and take a moment to consider all of your legal options.

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