Even though young adults are traditionally the least likely to engage in estate planning, all adults over age 18 should have some basic estate planning documents in place. And this is true regardless of how much money you have, whether you are married or single, and whether or not you have kids.
On that note, if you are an adult of any age and you haven’t created your estate plan, here are five reasons why you shouldn’t wait another day to get your plan started.
1. Incapacity Leaves You Vulnerable
Most people assume estate planning only comes into play when they die, but that’s dead wrong—pun fully intended. Although planning for your eventual death is a big part of the process, it’s just as important—if not more so—to plan for your potential incapacity due to a serious accident or illness.
If you become incapacitated without an estate plan, your family would have to petition the court to appoint a guardian or conservator to manage your legal, financial, and medical affairs. This process can be extremely costly, time-consuming, and traumatic for everyone involved. Plus, the court could appoint a family member you’d never want in control of such crucial decisions (just look at what happened to Britney Spears), or the court could appoint a professional guardian, which would give a total stranger nearly complete control of your life and your assets.
We can help you put estate planning vehicles in place that grants the person(s) of your choice the immediate authority to make your medical, financial, and legal decisions for you in the event of your incapacity, and implement estate planning strategies that provide specific guidelines detailing exactly how you want your medical care to be managed during your incapacity, including critical end-of-life decisions.
2. Control Who Inherits Your Assets
If you die without an estate plan, the court will decide who inherits your assets, and this can lead to all sorts of problems. Who is entitled to your property is determined by our state’s intestate succession laws, which hinge largely upon whether you are married and if you have children.
Spouses and children are given top priority, followed by your other closest living family members. If you’re single with no children, your assets typically go to your parents and siblings, and then more distant relatives, if you have no living parents or siblings. If no living relatives can be located, your assets go to the state.
Yet you can prevent all of this with proper estate planning and ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Moreover, it’s important to note that state intestacy laws only apply to blood relatives, so your unmarried partners and/or close friends would get nothing if you fail to create a plan. If you want someone outside of your family to inherit your property, having an estate plan is an absolute must.
We can help you create a plan that distributes your assets in the exact manner you wish, taking into account your family dynamics and other contributing factors, so your death won’t be any more painful or expensive for your family than it needs to be.
3. Keep Your Family Out Of Court And Conflict
If you don’t have an estate plan, or if you only have a will (yes, even with a will), you force your family to go through probate upon your death. Probate is the court process for settling your estate, and even if you have a will, it’s notoriously slow, costly, and public. But with no plan at all, probate can be a total nightmare for your loved ones.
Depending on the complexity of your estate, probate can take months, or even years, to complete. And like most court proceedings, probate can be expensive. In fact, once all of your debts, taxes and court fees have been paid, there might be nothing left for your loved ones to inherit. And if there are any assets left, your family will likely have to pay hefty attorney’s fees and court costs in order to claim them.
Outside of these issues, the most burdensome part of probate is the frustration and anxiety it can cause your loved ones. In addition to grieving your death, planning your funeral, and contacting everyone you’re close with, your family will be stuck dealing with an overloaded court system that can be challenging to navigate even in the best of circumstances. Plus, the entire affair is open to the public, which can make things all the riskier for those you leave behind, especially if the wrong people take an interest in your family’s affairs.
Fortunately, the expense and drama of the court system can be almost totally avoided with proper planning. Using a trust, for example, we can ensure that your assets pass directly to your family upon your death or incapacity, without the need for any court intervention. And as long as you have planned properly, just about everything can happen in the privacy of our office and on your family’s time.
4. Minimize the Mess
Entirely separate from anything to do with court, conflict, or your legal documents, consider the reality of the mess you’ll leave behind if you do nothing. Look around yourself right now, what do you see? Someone would have to deal with all of that, if something happens to you, whether that something is an illness, injury, or death.
Now imagine that same someone trying to figure out what you own, where it is, and how to access it? That’s the reality of the kind of mess you are subjecting someone you love to deal with if you do not get your affairs in order.
With a Life and Legacy Plan in place (like the plans we create for our clients), you are minimizing the mess, providing clear instructions, and making it as easy as possible for the people you love to handle things for you, if and when something happens to you.
5. Ensure Your Kids Are Raised By the People You Trust
If you’re the parent of minor children, the most devastating consequence of having no estate plan is what could happen to your kids in the event of your death or incapacity. Without a plan in place naming legal guardians for your kids, it will be left for a judge to decide who cares for your children. The judge could pick someone from your family you’d never want to raise them to adulthood. And if you don’t have any family or the family you do have is deemed unfit, your children could be raised by total strangers. This could cause major heartbreak not only for your children, but for your entire family.
In light of these facts, if you have minor children, your number-one planning priority should be naming legal guardians to care for your children if anything should happen to you. This is so critical, that we’ve developed a comprehensive system called the Kid’s Protection Plan© that guides you step-by-step through the process of creating the legal documents naming these guardians.
Additionally, you need to take steps to keep your kids out of the care of strangers over the immediate term, while the authorities figure out what to do if you’re incapacitated or dead. We handle that in a Kid’s Protection Plan©, too.
Stop Making Excuses
As we’ve outlined here, not having an estate plan can be incredibly traumatic and costly for both you and your loved ones, who will be forced to deal with the mess you’ve left behind.
You simply cannot afford to put off creating your estate plan any longer. We will guide you step-by-step through the planning process to ensure you’ve taken all the proper precautions to spare your loved ones from needless stress, conflict, and expense.
The biggest benefit you stand to gain from putting a plan in place is the peace of mind that comes from knowing your loved ones will be provided and cared for no matter what happens to you. Don’t wait another day—contact us to schedule an appointment, so you can finally check this urgent task off your to-do list.
This article is a service of The Life and Legacy Law Center, Personal Family Lawyer®. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.
The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.