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Utah Business

How estate planning protects you and your family now and in the future.

5 common myths about estate planning, debunked

This story appears in the June issue of Utah Business. Subscribe

Estate planning is a complex branch of financial planning that often leaves many feeling overwhelmed. However confusing it may be, it is crucial — understanding the fundamentals of estate planning not only safeguards your financial future but also ensures that important decisions about your health care are made by individuals you trust. 

I sat down with Attorney Jeffrey Cardon, an estate planning specialist, to debunk some common myths. 

Myth #1: A will is sufficient for estate planning.

Drafting a will is an important component of estate planning, but at the heart of any good estate plan is a comprehensive estate trust. These trusts are separate legal entities you can craft to ensure your assets go to the correct beneficiaries in the way and at the time that you choose. While a will goes into effect at the time of death, trusts can be enacted in the event that you are still living but unable to make decisions regarding finances or health care. 

Other significant estate planning documents might include a power of attorney, health care directive and living will. 

Myth #2: Estate planning is only necessary for older individuals.

According to Cardon, “Young families are one of the groups that really need to do estate planning.” Unexpected events happen every day, and one of the best ways to prepare for worst-case scenarios is to plan early. By building an estate trust, parents can ensure their assets are managed and distributed to their children according to their wishes.

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Myth #3: Estate planning is only for the wealthy.

Estate planning is useful for individuals of all income levels. Having a plan in place ensures that your finances and health care are handled by someone you trust. It also minimizes any potential conflict that could arise among surviving family members

Myth #4: Estate planning is only about distributing assets after death.

Planning for the worst doesn’t just include your death. Creating an estate plan also allows you time and space to make decisions about how you’d like your affairs to be handled in the case of incapacitation. You can indicate who you’d like to make health care decisions on your behalf and make plans to protect your assets. “A comprehensive estate plan addresses both the present and future needs of an individual or family,” Cardon says.

Myth #5: Estate planning is a one-time process.

Once you have a plan in place, you should routinely review and update your estate planning strategies. Whenever you experience a change in personal circumstances — such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children or acquiring new assets — you should update your estate plan to reflect how those circumstances might change your trust.

Cardon advises that the first step for someone ready to take on estate planning is to contact a local attorney. “It’s better to have something than to have nothing,” Cardon says. “I would encourage anyone to take the bull by the horns and get somebody who understands all the different issues that families deal with in life and who can help them put together a good estate plan.” 

Heather Bergeson is a writer and editor based in Utah. Heather has written about travel, higher education, sports and the outdoors for Stowaway magazine, BYU College of Humanities, Utah Valley University and Moab Sun News. She has a bachelor's degree in English and editing from Brigham Young University.