Dispelling Myths About Estate Planning

People commonly look to wills and trusts, health care directives and power of attorney to provide a comprehensive package of documents to organize their final affairs, but these documents do not necessarily provide the full scope of protection they need.

My law firm, Jeffrey P. White and Associates, P.C., is focused on providing clients with a full understanding of estate planning today so they can make better decisions tomorrow.

Consider these details before choosing an estate planning lawyer:

Power Of Attorney Only Works In Certain Situations

When you choose a power of attorney, you are giving someone else the same authority you have to manage your finances, but only before you pass away. You may anticipate needing help as you get older in transactions like real estate sales, but that power will cease upon your death.

You need to be cautious in choosing your power of attorney, making sure he or she will act according to your best interest and in protection of your finances, and you need to clearly outline in a separate document who will be in charge of your estate once you pass away.

Joint Tenancy Does Not Mean Your Property Will Be Distributed As You Wish

Many people who own property together (such as married couples) are joint tenants. In this scenario, if one person passes away, ownership of the property remains with the other joint owner. Many joint tenants assume that if one owner passes away, the property will be appropriately distributed to heirs by the living owner. Unfortunately, this often results in unintentional disinheritance.

For example, a widow may remarry, and transfer home ownership to her new husband. Without appropriate estate planning documents, assets such as a home may never end up distributed to the deceased's beneficiaries or heirs. Many tax issues can also result from joint tenancy, and these must be accounted for in appropriate estate planning documents.

In short, if you pass away, your children may not receive anything if you rely solely on joint tenancy.

Even The Most Thoroughly Drafted Wills End Up In Probate

By definition, wills leave people involved in the probate process. Estate administration for wills involves going to court, hiring an attorney, accountants and appraisers — all of which can cost a great deal of money. This delays the process of distributing property and leaves issues open for will contests.

Wills do nothing to take care of life issues. They are only effective upon an individual's death. These issues are often overlooked when people draft simple wills and litigation can easily result.

In many cases, I advise my clients to pursue trusts as more flexible and portable means to protect both life and death issues. They are often recognized by other states, whereas many other documents provide a limited scope of protection.

Learn more about estate planning and what strategy is likely to give you the most effective and lasting results. I offer free initial consultations and reasonable fees. Schedule a meeting online at my office in Auburn, Maine. I can also be reached by telephone at 207-536-6224 for more information.