5 Misconceptions People Have About Estate Planning
ER Physician and Lesbian Couple Share Their Stories
Are you one of the more than 55 percent of Americans who don’t have a will or estate plan? If so, you could be setting your loved ones up for heartache just because you have some common misconceptions, according to Nicole Pavlik, an estate planning and business attorney with offices in Scottsdale and Phoenix.
Pavlik works with couples and families with diverse needs, helping them with general estate planning, LGBT estate planning, probate, estate and trust administration, creating pet trusts and more.
“It’s not an easy thing to discuss, but it’s much better to plan now while you are still alive and of sound mind than to put it off,” Pavlik says. “People’s emotions are escalated after a loved one dies, and often get uglier with grief.”
Frank Lovecchio, a director of a poison center for a major hospital network in the Valley, was prompted to contact Pavlik after seeing so much angst in the intensive care units in the many emergency rooms he has worked in.
“I’ve seen a lot of siblings fighting at the bedside and really heart-wrenching scenes over the past two decades,” Lovecchio, a Phoenix resident, says of his experience watching family members dealing with dying relatives who didn’t have a will in place. “And even though my wife and I have been together for 20 years and have two children, we did not have a formal will in place. Nicole not only worked around our hectic work schedule, she came to our home and really took the time to explain things and answer questions we had about hypothetical future events.”
Two events drove Britany Richter and her wife, Mandi, to get their estate documents together: getting married and the passing of Mandi’s grandmother.
“When we first got married in California, it was only legal in a handful of states, and Arizona was not one of them,” Richter explains. “After hearing horror stories of same-sex couples not being able to see their loved ones in the hospital or having to fight for common financials and property through probate, we knew that something needed to be done.”
The Surprise couple worked with Pavlik to establish a trust in April 2014, and they were particularly concerned with Britany’s parental rights once the couple got pregnant.
“We were planning on Mandi getting pregnant, and because at that time, my rights would not be carried over to Arizona, the only way I could have ensured I had parental rights to my child would have been to petition the courts or fill out a Power of Attorney form every six months, which would still leave gaps in my rights and be costly,” Richter states.
Their son was born after Arizona changed the law to recognize same-sex marriages. “Now that we have an up-to-date trust in place, we have a sense of comfort knowing that if one, or both, of us should pass, our son will be provided for,” she says.
Both Lovecchio and Richter says working with Pavlik not only gave them peace of mind but also opened their eyes to the legalities of estate planning in Arizona.
“There are probably a half dozen misconceptions about estate planning, and the last thing anyone should be concerned about when a loved one passes is what their wishes were,” Richter explains. “This is a time to share memories and come together as a family, not be side-tracked with who is going to take care of their pets or get their TV.”
Pavlik cited these common misconceptions people have about estate planning:
We’ve Got a Marriage Certificate – We Should Be Fine
Not always, and it can be complicated if children from another marriage are involved. Additionally, spouses need certain documents in place to act on behalf of their spouse during times of incapacity.
We Can Wait Until We Retire
Pavlik said this is a bad strategy because there’s no telling how your health will be leading up to retirement, not to mention, you may have major changes in your life relating to children, grandchildren, property and other valuable assets.
Common Law Marriages Exist in Arizona
Many people think that if they live together for more than seven years, they fall into this category, but Arizona does not recognize common law marriages, except it will acknowledge a common law marriage from a state that does recognize them.
Our Will from the Internet Is Sufficient
Pavlik said people often don’t realize the verbiage in wills pulled from the Internet may not be accurate or compatible with state laws. And, if they have complex financial assets, like multiple properties, or they have concerns about heirs, like a child who has a substance abuse problem, it might be better to create a trust with very specific stipulations.
We’re Not Wealthy – We Can’t Afford It
Pavlik said not everyone needs a trust, and that sometimes a simple will is sufficient. Her services for a simple plan start at $850 and go up from there depending on complexity.
For information or to schedule a free consultation, visit www.npavliklaw.com or call (602) 635-6176.