Estate Planning Matters

by Andrea Slagh and Bil Murray

No one can foresee the future with certainty. That’s why committing the time and energy needed to develop an estate plan makes sense. Answering difficult questions now is important and it shouldn’t wait.
An estate plan goes further than a will. It deals with the distribution of asset, and can help you and your heirs pay considerably less in fees, court costs and taxes. It can also help you establish the legacy you wish to leave.

Here are five good reasons why estate planning matters.

  1. Protecting your family.
    Who inherits your assets if you die without a Will? Without a plan, what you leave behind is passed to your heirs according to state law. That may result in certain family members inheriting your property despite the fact you may not want those individuals to receive anything. An estate plan allows you to control who inherits your property. Losing a loved one is tough enough. You want your family to be able to continue on without facing financial difficulties. Your estate plan can provide your family with such financial security.
  2. It can help avoid a mess.
    You already know what assets you have and the value of those assets. You also know who you want to receive your assets upon your death. Often, without an estate plan, time and money are wasted trying to determine what assets the deceased individual owned when he or she died and who should receive those assets. With an estate plan, you can decide who will get what, how much they will receive and when will they receive it. Such decision-making can help avoid unnecessary arguments amongst those you love.
  3. Avoiding Probate.
    You don’t have to have personal experience with the probate process to know that the less a Court has to be involved, the better. If you die without a Will, it is likely that your family will be subject to the probate process. This can result in unnecessary attorney’s fees and undesirable delays. An estate plan may help those you care about avoid the cost of having to go to Court to have decision made that you could have made in your estate plan, or, at least, minimize the Court’s involvement in your affairs.
  4. Protecting Minor Children.
    Who will raise your minor children if you die? Having someone to oversee a minor’s needs and finances until they reach adult age is required by law. Through your estate plan, you can nominate who you would like to serve as guardian of your minor children. If you do not nominate a guardian for your minor children, the Court will decide who will serve in this role. Obviously, this could result in someone being appointed who you would not deem appropriate. It could also result in a dispute amongst family members.
  5. Losing Capacity
    Who is going to step in and help you with your personal affairs if you become unable to manage those affairs on your own? An estate plan allows you to nominate someone to help you with your finances as well as help you make medical decisions if there comes a time when you cannot make such decisions on your own. If you do not nominate someone to help manage those affairs, and the need arises, the Court will appoint someone to help with those decisions. Unfortunately, the person the Court appoints may not be who you would have chosen.

No one wants to think about the fact that there may be a time when we cannot handle our own affairs. We also do not want to think about dying and what will happen to our property and our family when we are gone. But, doing so is very important. The proper estate plan will allow you to ensure that your affairs are handled properly while you are still alive and that your family is taken care of when you are gone.