The term “Fake News” is thrown around a lot these days. It usually means the person using it is not happy about something that has been reported. It is frightening to those of us who see a free press and an informed citizenry as essential to our form of government. The gossip mongers with internet access appear to have as much influence as legitimate press, but without the training, experience, or code of ethics. In Estate Planning and Probate we deal with our share of bad information and miscommunication. It is true that half truths, like half bricks, can do a lot of damage.
Bad information about Estate Planning and Probate can be motivated by profit. If I want to sell you a product with a high mark up, I may be tempted to up sell you from what you need, to what is most profitable. The most common sales technique is to speak of DANGERS like taxes, lack of privacy, and greatly exaggerated costs of probate. The person promoting these products has a one size fits all approach and the one they sell is the most profitable for them, not necessarily the best plan for you.
Another misleading form of information is the national expert who paints with a broad brush. The law of each of the fifty States is different. The challenge for the big time presenter is that they can’t take the time to listen to you or analyze the factors that will impact your estate plan where you live. They may have valuable insights about your finances, but they almost always overreach.
In addition to the profiteer and the over generic financial guru, your neighbor may be unknowingly publishing fake news. Recently, the forms for Statutory Durable Powers of Attorney have changed. While it would be wise to review your documents at least every five years or anytime you experience a big life event, it is not necessary to redraft all your documents based on these changes. I have received numerous calls based on bad information from a television or radio personality over the years, but friends and neighbors frighten folks with fake news in ways that dwarf the talking heads in the media.
So, what can you do to combat fake news in this area of your life?
Pick up the phone when you have a question and talk to someone who practices in this area of the law. Mr. Bailey answers numerous questions everyday and loves to hear the relief in the voice of the caller when they get to hear accurate answers based on their facts, in their jurisdiction, from a trusted source.