Despite all the horror stories about famous people who don't have an estate plan in place, many regular Americans still don't even have a will, according to CNBC in "Prince or pauper, young or old, here's why you still need a will." As we lead up to National Estate Planning Awareness Week, here are the three top reasons why everyone needs an estate plan.
1. Intestacy. The negative effect of dying "intestate" or with no estate plan in place is significant. This can be avoided in as little as one meeting with an experienced estate planning attorney. You have the opportunity to make the impossibly hard decisions involved in estate planning for and on behalf of those you leave behind. Think of your plan as your advance instructions on how to administer whatever you have left behind. These will be the instructions to be followed by the person you designate to carry out your plan.
Even if you create a simple will, you may still run into problems. If your assets are in your individual name at the time of your death (not a joint account or a deed to a house with your name and your spouse’s name), those assets will most likely become probate assets. That means that your heirs will have to go to probate court to have your will accepted as your last will and testament, followed by an often lengthy and drawn-out process to get the authority to access your accounts and assets before determining how you wanted them distributed.
This process is a matter of public record, and can often be a long and costly process. Depending on how you prefer to pass on your assets, this may or may not be a process you want your loved ones and heirs to deal with.
2. Legacy. An estate plan gives you an opportunity to fulfill your responsibilities, even after you have passed away. Your influence over your assets, on businesses and charitable goals, and in the lives of your family and friends, can be extended. In your plan, you may designate a trustee to control assets you directed to be held in trust on behalf of those you leave behind.
3. Family. One of the most important reasons to create an estate plan is for any minor children. In your will, you designate those who will take care of your kids in the event both parents die. They must be named as guardians of your children in your will. You also have the opportunity to leave certain items with special meaning to specific loved ones or family members.
Even just the creation of a plan is one way to take care of your family: you have the ability to minimize the decisions your loved ones will have to make after your death by creating a plan that addresses those decisions now. That keeps family from having to guess at your wishes for health care, burial plans, etc.
At Family Estate Planning Law Group, we know that taking the next step to communicate your plan and your wishes to your loved ones and those you’ve designated to execute the plan can help to minimize the grieving process later. That’s why we encourage our clients to hold a Family Care Meeting to explain the plan and let your loved ones know what their responsibilities will be. It’s often a huge relief both to our clients and their loved ones to know in advance what clients want and what they’re asking their loved ones to do.
At the end of the day, creating an estate plan is all about taking care of your family and leaving behind the legacy you intend. Regardless of the size of your estate, a properly prepared and executed estate plan gives your family direction during a difficult time, provides guidance to those who survive you and protects those you love. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you create a plan that is best suited for you and your family.
For more information and to learn more about how we work with our clients, explore our website and contact us to schedule your consultation today!
Reference: CNBC (May 10, 2016) "Prince or pauper, young or old, here's why you still need a will"