If you think you don’t have enough money to worry about, if you think that your estate is too simple to need a plan, if you think that whoever has more than you is the type of person who needs a plan – you are not alone!
In early 2016, Prince died with an estate valued in the millions of dollars with no plan of any kind in place to help establish beneficiaries and direct the disposition of his assets. Many famous people have died without plans in place, including Abraham Lincoln and Texas billionaire Howard Hughes. In fact, a majority of Americans have not taken any steps to plan for their estates. A 2015 Harris Poll stated that 64% of Americans have not taken any steps to plan for their estate and other surveys indicate that up to 75% of Americans die without even establishing a will. Most people say they are too busy, that planning is too complicated or, commonly, that “I’m not rich enough to need an estate plan.” The truth is, if you have a home or any other assets that you want to ensure go to who you want and how you want when you die – you need an estate plan!
By taking the time to plan your estate you will be able to:
Leave an Intentional Legacy to Your Family
If you want to make sure your spouse is taken care of when you die and that there are no complications, unnecessary legal issues or unexpected expenses and delays or if you want to ensure that your children’s upbringing and education are assured, a proper plan can ensure that your legacy is intentional and effective.
If you have children under the age of 18, there are additional items to consider to ensure that should you be unable to care for them that they are properly taken care of according to your wishes by those whom you would trust. Otherwise, a court will decide without your input who will receive your assets and if applicable, how your children are raised including where they will live and who they will live with.
Quickly Disperse Property to Beneficiaries
There are a number of options that an experienced estate planning attorney can walk you through to help ensure that your property passes quickly and without complication. Options include living trusts, enacting and updating proper beneficiary designations, insurance policies, updating property titles and taking advantage of other laws that can simplify and expedite the transfer of your assets according to your wishes.
Choose Executors/Trustees for your Estate
Choosing competent people to be in charge after you are gone and giving them the necessary authority will save money, reduce the burden on your survivors, and simplify administration of your estate.
Plan for Incapacity
There is always the possibility that you may become physically or mentally incapacitated in the future and proper estate planning will ensure that you are taken care of most appropriately and according to your wishes under those unfortunate circumstances. Living wills and health-care powers of attorney will enable you to make decisions in advance about life support and who will make decisions for you if necessary.
Ease the Strain on your Family
You can ease the difficulty of your grieving survivors and plan your funeral arrangements in advance as part of your comprehensive estate plan by either pre-selecting and pre-paying for your arrangements or by simply designating your wishes.
Effective planning will ensure that the cost of transferring property to beneficiaries is as low as possible which will leave more money for your beneficiaries.
Contribute to Charity
Your estate plan can help charitable causes either during your lifetime or upon your death, and at the same time take advantage of tax laws designed to encourage private philanthropy.
Reduce or Eliminate Estate Taxes
An effective estate plan will give the maximum allowed by law to your beneficiaries and the minimum to the government. Every dollar your estate has to pay in estate and inheritance taxes are dollars that your beneficiaries won’t receive.
Take Care of Those with Needs
Do you want to ensure that your elderly parent or disabled child is taken care of? Do you have a grandchild whose education you want to assure? A customized estate plan can establish a special trust fund for family members who need support that you won't be there to provide.
Ensure Your Business Will Continue
Your estate plan can provide for an orderly succession and continuation of business by specifying what will happen to your interest in the business.
Will you be one of the millions of Americans who die every year without taking advantage of the benefits of comprehensive estate planning? Will you leave your legacy up to the government and the best efforts of those who survive you to intervene at your death or incapacity? If you want to plan to leave the Legacy that you intend, it is important to discuss your wants and needs with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney. You can plan today to ensure that current needs are met and that you and your family will be prepared for whatever the future may hold.