While most of us are aware of the need to do at least a minimal amount of estate planning, few of us actually take the necessary steps to do so. According to Rocket Lawyers, more than 65 percent of Americans don’t even have a simple will—a number which is actually up from 2011. Even more women between the ages of 45-54 (67 percent) don’t have a simple will, let alone other estate planning documents. Perhaps even more shocking is that a full third of Americans say they would rather get a root canal, or do their taxes, than to create or update their will.
When questioned further,
- Nearly a fifth of those surveyed said they just don’t consider estate planning necessary,
- about 16 percent said dealing with an estate plan was simply too complicated,
- 14 percent declared estate planning too expensive,
- 13 percent said they didn’t need a will or estate plan because their children and/or spouse would automatically receive their assets, and
- 6 percent said it would take too much time to deal with the issue.
The bottom line is that if you die without so much as a will— “intestate” is the term for without having a will—there are absolutely no guarantees as to who will inherit your assets.
As a general rule, your surviving spouse and children will inherit—after a lengthy probate and a number of legal decisions made on your behalf. If you had minor children and failed to name a guardian, then the state will make that decision on your behalf. If you were not married and had no children, the state will decide which of your relatives will inherit your assets—and the state could well choose the person or persons you would never want to inherit your assets.
If you don’t currently have an estate plan, now is the time to ensure your loved ones are financially taken care of in the event of your death. There are many levels of estate planning, and most estate planning attorneys offer “packages” which can address your specific estate planning needs. While estate planning packages vary from one estate planning attorney to another, typical basic package plans look like this:
- Very basic estate planning consists only of a simple will. This basic package is quick, simple, and inexpensive. Having a will ensures your assets will be distributed as you would want, reduces the likelihood of family disputes, and appoints a representative to handle all the details of your estate after your death. Perhaps most importantly, a Guardianship and Trust Will can establish guardianship for your minor children. The disadvantages of only having a will lie in the lack of a Power of Attorney or an Advance Medical Directive. A simple will does not allow your beneficiaries to avoid probate, and the contents of your will are a matter of public record, available to anyone following your death.
- A basic estate planning adds an Advance Medical Directive, and a Durable Power of Attorney which includes Authorization for Release of Medical and Health Information. A Advance Medical Directive will ensure medical decisions are made on your behalf according to your wishes in the event you become incapacitated. A Durable Power of Attorney will ensure that should you become incapacitated, a designated person can make financial decisions on your behalf. Like the very basic estate planning package, this package does not allow your beneficiaries to avoid probate and your will becomes a matter of public record.
- A Living Trust estate planning package is the most comprehensive, and can include the following legal documents:
Revocable Living Trust;
Last Will and Testament;
Durable Powers of Attorney;
Advance Medical Directives;
Deed of Gift
This comprehensive package allows your beneficiaries to avoid probate, potentially saving thousands in legal fees. Your estate will be handled privately, and will not be a matter of public record. The time you will be required to spend on a comprehensive estate planning package will be more, and the cost will be higher due to the fact the comprehensive package is more involved.
Don’t bury your head in the sand any longer. Make provisions for your loved ones in the event of an unexpected tragedy, and put your mind at ease. Contact us today to speak to an experienced estate planning attorney.