Most of the people I meet with for the first time do not have all their legal affairs in order. If you already have a last will and testament, then you are among the minority of the population. Great planning! However, for those of you who do not have an undated will, we understand some of the reasons why you hesitate to formally plan your estate.
Here are some of the reasons people cite for not having a will, along with some thoughts on why you should have your estate affairs in order.
• "I don't want to face my mortality."
Of course, no one wants to talk about death, but think of estate planning as part of your responsibilities in life. Remember, if you don't plan yourself, the government has a mandatory plan that they will put in place for you.
• "Talking about death and estate planning can dredge up family conflicts."
While you may want to avoid discussing money with your heirs, avoiding the topic only makes it worse for everyone after you are gone.
• "I don't want to spoil the children with money, and I don't trust them with money."
Estate planning can help avoid spoiling your children, because you draw up a blueprint for how your money will be distributed and you help safeguard your life savings upon death.
• "Discussing money with my heirs is uncomfortable."
While you may want to avoid discussing money with your heirs, not dealing with the topic will only make it worse for your heirs after you die.
• "Developing an estate plan takes too much time and money."
The cost of an estate plan is significantly less expensive and time consuming than what your family may have to pay to resolve your estate or pay in taxes without proper planning.
• "It can always be done later."
Sometimes, drafting a will and getting an estate plan in place cannot be done later.
Despite all the reasons people cite for not planning ahead, there are many good reasons to have a will and an estate plan. Here are 10:
1. It will ensure your assets will go where you want; to family members, loved ones, charities, and trusts with beneficiaries. Otherwise, a court will decide your final wishes, based on the laws of the state.
2. You can control assets and manage your affairs while you're alive but incapacitated through the use of trusts and a power-of-attorney.
3. You can control assets after death; for example, by setting up a trust and designating trustees for special-needs children.
4. It will minimize the emotional and financial burdens your heirs will face.
5. You can increase the amount available to leave to charities by using strategies to benefit your heirs, while at the same time leaving some money to charities.
6. Having a will and estate plan can avoid the cost and delay of probate by using living trusts, or by titling property properly.
7. You can make provisions for a guardian of your minor children. Without a will, a court will make the decision.
8. It can minimize estate taxes owed to the federal and state governments, if your estate is subject to them.
9. You can make sure all your beneficiaries are treated the way you want.
10. It allows you to designate the person you want to be in charge of your estate.
If you have questions on any estate planning issues, give our office a call and we will be happy to help you. We offer a complimentary one-hour meeting with an estate planning attorney to address your specific questions.