“I don’t know” and “I’m really not sure” are two phrases that are not used nearly enough by many people. Some folks can’t resist the opportunity to give advice about things that they don’t really know a lot about, and it is important to recognize this, especially when it comes to the subject of estate planning.
There are of course people who are not very discerning that carelessly toss out half-truths and urban myths without having done any real solid research on their own. For example there are those who look you in the eye and tell you in no uncertain terms that the government will take all of your possessions if you pass away without having drawn up a will.
As estate planning attorneys creating wills is part of what we do, so we are certainly advocates of the practice; however, if you were to die intestate the government would not assume ownership of your property. It would go to your closest family members following standard legal rules of descent.
Then there are other people who have good intentions and may pass along some valid information, but oftentimes it is incomplete or outdated. For example, until the middle of December of 2010 the estate tax exclusion was scheduled to be $1 million in 2011. So for virtually the entire year people were writing about estate planning using this one million-dollar figure.
A casual observer could read a few articles and see this figure cited throughout the year. He or she may go on to advise friends and family members about the $1 million exemption for 2011 when in fact the estate tax exclusion is $5 million as a result of the passage of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010.
In the end it is important to recognize the fact that estate planning is a serious matter. Your estate will represent the last opportunity that you have to provide for the ones that you love the most, and this is an endeavor that is only responsibly undertaken with the assistance of a licensed and experienced estate planning attorney.