By Susan Francis, Special to the AFRO
Planning for the end of life is a heavy topic. It is full of emotions, stress and uncertainties. It’s common for our volunteer attorneys to meet with a client who doesn’t think they need to do estate planning or they come with misinformation about the process. Here are three myths we hear about estate planning and the facts to provide a more accurate outlook on estate planning.
Myth #1: You only need estate planning if you’re rich and have a lot of assets.
It’s a common misconception to think that estate planning is only required if you’re rich and wealthy with assets. This misconception can be detrimental to low-income Marylanders, especially those who are living paycheck to paycheck. Someone who owns their own home, car, has financial accounts and benefits will need estate planning – no matter the total value of the assets.
Myth #2: My house is paid for, so it will easily transfer to my family upon my death.
One critical piece that is missing from all estate planning discussions is how to avoid probate. Many people do not realize that their name is not listed on the deed to the property they live in and own. This presents a significant barrier for future generations to stay in the home and keep the wealth they’ve built within their family. If a family can’t afford to pay estate administration fees to properly pass the house through probate, they often lose the home to tax sale or other unfortunate reasons.
The probate process can take up to nine months to sort out and can come with hundreds of dollars in processing fees, not to mention added stress.
Free resources are available through My Deed, My Home, My Legacy to better understand the deed process. The first step is to confirm your name is on the deed to your property.
Myth #3: If I write all of my wishes down on paper, everything will be taken care of after my passing.
Writing down your wishes for after death is only one part of the estate planning process. While this covers your wishes, it doesn’t cover the actual legal passing (or transfer) of the property through the City or court system.
Seeking the help of a volunteer attorney can help you navigate the estate planning process and put the legal pieces in place now so your family can experience a smooth transition after your passing.