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What If You Could Put Your Biggest Estate Planning Fears Behind You?

Law Office of Todd A. Wilson > Estate Planning  > What If You Could Put Your Biggest Estate Planning Fears Behind You?

What If You Could Put Your Biggest Estate Planning Fears Behind You?

Todd A. Wilson - Estate Planning Lawyer

You Can Silence Your Biggest Estate Planning Concerns with Confidence. Here’s How.

When you think about estate planning and your will, what scares or worries you the most

If you’re like most Americans, you have at least one answer to that question — and facing your mortality isn’t necessarily at the top of the list. 

In fact, more often than not these days, estate planning fears are related to nuanced situations, complicated concerns, and ever-evolving uncertainties that can be tricky to navigate. 

For many, that’s enough reason to avoid estate planning entirely. For others, fears or anxieties keep them from taking a fresh look at a will or estate plan they created years ago. 

Either way, that can feed into more estate planning worries, and it can end up making people’s worst estate planning fears eventually come true. 

Here’s why, with a closer look at: 

This guide can help you identify and start working through your estate planning fears while also introducing you to some powerful strategies for keeping them at bay for the long term. 

Whenever you need personalized strategies from widely trusted and deeply experienced estate planning attorneys in Austin, contact TAW Law Texas

The Top 5 Biggest Estate Planning Fears

Estate planning can raise distinct concerns and deep-rooted fears that differ based on family structure, the nature and value of an estate, the legacy an individual wants to leave behind, and many other factors. 

Still, many of us share similar anxieties about wills and estate plans, with most folks experiencing at least one of the following estate planning fears at some point in life. 

Fear 1. Not leaving enough for loved ones or leaving them with hefty bills

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans worry they are not going to leave enough assets behind for their loved ones. Some are afraid they don’t have enough squirreled away while others are scared that:

  • They haven’t put their money away in the right ways or places.
  • Their beneficiaries will have a lot of creditor debt claims to resolve.
  • The estate tax bills are going to take the lion’s share of the assets.

Those are not new fears in the realm of estate planning. What is trending more these days, however, is the fact that more people say inflation and rising taxes are fueling this fear. 

Fear 2. Creating “trust fund monsters”

Spoiling beneficiaries with sizable inheritances is another common estate planning fear, particularly in wealthy and ultra-wealthy circles. In fact, those in the ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) group are roughly five times more likely to worry about giving their loved ones too much versus the estate tax bills their loved ones will have to deal with later. 

This fear tends to go hand in hand with concerns that bequeathing too much to beneficiaries could cause more insidious problems, like (but limited to): 

  • Losing it all: Will the family legacy be wasted? Will heirs mismanage the money, blow it all, or give it away to unsavory characters? These can be very real and very valid concerns when considering large inheritances for some beneficiaries.
  • Developing a sense of entitlement: Will beneficiaries lose motivation, expect everything on a silver platter, or give up on making contributions to their communities? Fostering that entitlement mindset in heirs can be another component of this fear.
  • Sparking family conflict: Will beneficiaries fight over the gifts you’re planning to give them? This dovetails into Fear #5 (see below for more on this).

Fear 3. Not being able to make changes in the future

Devising an estate plan does not set your wishes for the future into stone. Although some estate planning devices, like irrevocable trusts, may not be altered once they’ve activated, wills and other parts of estate plans can be revised in the future.

That gives you the opportunity to change your estate plan whenever events like (but not limited to) the following occur: 

  • Family changes, including births, marriages, divorces, or death
  • Changes in the laws, like sunsetting estate tax statutes or the passage of brand-new laws 
  • Growth or reductions in your asset holdings, which could involve setting up new trusts to manage special types of assets and/or hold those assets for specific beneficiaries
  • Your wishes evolve, meaning you simply want different terms, other beneficiaries, or new devices included because your goals change

Notably, however, this fear isn’t just about editing the ink on estate planning papers. It can also involve fears about changing inheritances once beneficiaries are aware of them — and psychologically “tied” to them.

Fear 4. Leaving “nontraditional” family members out

Multiple marriages and blended families can create complicated estates and several potential beneficiaries. With that, new challenges and questions can arise, like (and not exclusive to): 

  • How do I give to minor (grand)children versus adult (grand)children?
  • What can I do to make sure that certain nontraditional family members don’t get cut out by my biological beneficiaries? 
  • How can I keep other loved ones from trying to lay claim to an inheritance I don’t want them to have?

While the answers to these and other questions may not always be straightforward, nontraditional family can be incorporated into thoughtful estate planning. What most folks don’t realize is that:

  • The laws aren’t set up to protect or prioritize nontraditional families if you don’t have a will (i.e., if you die intestate). 
  • It can be prudent to include additional terms, stipulations, and/or devices for nontraditional families.

Fear 5. Igniting family conflict 

Starting family feuds with wills and inheritances is another major fear in estate planning. For those who share this anxiety, the worry centers on concerns that beneficiaries or loved ones may file will contests because:

  • They believe they were promised something specific. 
  • They’re unhappy with their inheritance, thinking they deserve more. 
  • They suspect fraud or a money grab by another party, like a late-in-life spouse or caregiver.

Ultimately, this fear also tends to raise anxieties about estates being drained by prolonged court battles, leaving less or little assets for the intended beneficiaries.

How to Identify & Start to Overcome Your Biggest Estate Planning Fears

Whatever estate planning concerns hit home with you, there are good chances they could stem from a limited understanding or misconceptions about your options and how to proceed. That can make it easy to stall out and get trapped in fear-based thinking. 

It won’t, however, help you get past your estate planning concerns to find better solutions. Asking and answering these questions, however, can begin to shed some light on what it may take to move past estate planning fears for good:

  • What are my estate planning goals?
  • What’s held me back with estate planning in the past?
  • What would happen with my estate if I died tomorrow?
  • How much do I really know about estate planning?
  • When was the last time I checked my will or estate plan?
  • When was the last time I spoke to my loved ones about my estate plan?
  • What resources could facilitate my estate planning?

These may not be the only questions you want to consider — and no matter what your answers are, you don’t have to parse them out all by yourself. The attorneys at TAW Law Texas are here to help whenever you’re ready to talk estate planning in Texas.

4 Smart Strategies to Mitigate & Minimize Estate Planning Fears & Concerns

Believe it or not, many of us don’t make the move to get our estates in order until it’s crisis time. Research also shows that we’re about three times more likely to create an estate plan or a will when we get bad news — like hearing we’ve lost a loved one or being diagnosed with a new health condition — versus good news, like buying a house or growing our family.

Instead of jumping into estate planning as a reaction, here are some more effective strategies for addressing your concerns and truly moving past them: 

  1. Be proactive: Prioritize estate planning if you don’t have a will or if it’s been at least a couple of years since you’ve looked at your estate plan. If you don’t prioritize a proactive approach to estate planning, other problems of the day will likely consume your time — and that raises the risks of estate planning falling to the wayside.
  2. Think of estate planning as a conversation: It’s a “talk” you can routinely have with yourself, your loved ones, and/or any professionals guiding you in the process. If you view estate planning as a conversation, instead of a “task,” involving others can feel more natural. This conversational approach can also compel you to revisit estate planning routinely with the parties who matter.
  3. Communicate with your loved ones: Tell your spouse, your children, or other loved ones where your estate planning documents are, so they can easily retrieve these items if or when needed. You may also want to consider sharing details about the terms of your estate plan to limit the potential for surprises, confusion, and conflicts later. A little clarity upfront can go a long way toward reducing the risk of family conflicts in probate court in the future.
  4. Talk to an estate planning attorney: You don’t have to do all of your estate planning alone, and that’s likely not in your best interests anyways. The laws, your needs, your estate, and other factors can change over time. A lawyer, up to date with the latest changes that could impact you, can be your advisor and guide, showing you the better strategies and options as your circumstances evolve. That can help you make more informed choices while delivering more reliable peace of mind.

7 Devices to Consider in Prudent Estate Planning

Along with the strategies above, the devices below can be cornerstones of judicious estate planning: 

  1. A will can explain which beneficiaries inherit different assets while also setting up special terms, like no contest clauses, or establishing specific types of trusts, all of which would be irrevocable (due to the death of the will maker or grantor).
  2. A revocable living trust, if properly funded, can avoid probate, expediting the transfer of assets to beneficiaries after death and saving money on court costs and attorney fees.
  3. REPTs or real estate privacy trusts can provide a means for transferring real estate assets, houses, and other commercial property to beneficiaries, without the need for probate.
  4. GRATs or grantor-retained annuity trusts offer another mechanism for transferring high-value, appreciating assets to specific beneficiaries without having to probate those assets.
  5. ILITs or irrevocable life insurance trusts can hold life insurance policies and benefits, thereby excluding these assets from estates and probate to preserve more for the designated beneficiaries.
  6. IDGTs or intentionally defective grantor trusts can transfer family heirlooms, cash, stocks, bonds, business interests, and/or other assets to beneficiaries outside of probate, as long as these trusts are properly set up and funded.
  7. More: Special Needs Trusts, Family Limited Partnerships, Charitable Remainder Trusts, Spousal Lifetime Access Trusts, and/or other devices may also play a key role in comprehensive estate planning for you.

Selecting the best devices, covering your bases, and achieving your estate planning goals can be easier with the help of an attorney, especially an experienced estate planning lawyer at TAW Law Texas. 

When to Talk to an Estate Planning Lawyer

You can’t go back in time to create an estate plan or a will. You can, however, get free, confidential advice about your estate planning options in a no-obligation consultation with a top Austin estate planning lawyer. Simply email us or call 512-827-9212 now.

Dedicated to providing exceptional counsel and value, our Austin lawyers offer comprehensive estate planning and probate services throughout Travis County, Williamson County, Bastrop County, Blanco County, Hays County, and beyond. We also offer personalized solutions, strategic counsel, and enduring peace of mind.

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Todd A. Wilson

Todd A. Wilson has been practicing law since 2007, with the aim of educating all strata of society and sharing crucial insights about the importance of estate planning, probate, and more.

The Law Office of Todd A. Wilson (also known as TAW Law TX) offers affordable estate planning and probate services.