Many believe that estate planning is for those who are wealthy and retired. The truth is: all adults over the age of 18 should have some form of estate planning in place. This is true regardless of your financial situation, marital status, or if you have children. On that topic, if you are an adult of any age, here are reasons why you shouldn’t put it off any longer.
Who Will Handle Your Affairs if You’re Incapacitated?
Most people believe that estate planning only applies when they die. Although planning for your eventual death is an important part of the process, planning for your future disability due to a major accident or illness is just as crucial, if not more so.
Without an estate plan, your family would have to ask the court to appoint a representative to oversee your legal, financial, and medical affairs. This procedure can be incredibly expensive, time-consuming, and stressful for all parties involved. Furthermore, the court could choose a family member you would never want in charge of such important decisions, or the court could appoint a professional guardian, giving a total stranger practically entire control of your life and possessions.
As your estate planning attorney, we can assist you in establishing estate planning vehicles that give the person(s) of your choice immediate authority to make medical, financial, and legal choices on your behalf in the event of your incapacity. We can also create customized language in your documents that describe precisely how you want your medical care to be managed during your incapacity, including vital end-of-life decisions.
Who Will Inherit Your Assets?
If you die without an estate plan, the state will decide who inherits your assets, which can cause a slew of complications. Who is entitled to your property is established by our state’s intestate succession laws, which are heavily influenced by whether or not you are married and whether or not you have children.
Priority is given to your spouse and children, followed by your other closest living blood family members. If you are a single person without children, your assets are normally distributed to your parents and siblings, followed by more distant relatives if you do not have living parents or siblings. If no living relatives can be found, your assets are forfeited to the state.
However, with good estate planning, you may avoid all of this and ensure that your assets are allocated according to your intentions. Furthermore, state intestacy rules only apply to blood relatives, so your unmarried lifelong partner and/or dearest friends would receive nothing if you died without a plan. If you want someone other than your family to inherit your property, you must have an estate plan.
You would think that if you are married with children and die without an estate plan, things will proceed reasonably easily, but that is not always the case. If you are married but had children from a previous relationship, the rules give one-third of the estate to your spouse and two-thirds to your children. While this may be okay for some, it may be less than you intend to leave to your spouse, or if you are not in a close relationship with your children or not trust them with your money, state law determines that they receive your assets, not you.
In another scenario, you and your spouse could both die, leaving assets to children who are too young to manage them and necessitating the appointment of a long-term professional guardian to manage assets in ways you would never desire. The management of funds is done under the supervision of the court which is expensive. Plus, your children would get the funds when they turn 18 years old!
Furthermore, dying without a plan may result in an ugly legal struggle among your remaining family members about who should inherit your possessions. You may believe that this would never happen to your loved ones, yet it happens all the time, even when there is little wealth involved.
Contact an Estate Attorney for Help
If we have even part-way demonstrated the importance of an estate plan at any age, attend one of Promise Law’s free estate planning workshops. These workshops provide a great foundation of information that everyone needs to make sound planning decisions. Moreover, if you attend a workshop, you also get a complimentary one-on-one consultation with one of our attorneys.