Are you one of the more than 50% of Americans who does not have an estate plan? That’s right, more than half of all Americans have left no direction as to where they would like their assets to go after they pass away.
Estate planning IS for everyone. While thinking about death and what will happen to our things once we are gone is not something we love to do, science has proven that 100% of us will die at some point. If you leave no plan for your family, you won’t be harmed, but your loved ones will be left with the burden of figuring out your affairs while trudging through a costly and hectic probate process.
Without an estate plan, you give a court permission to decide who gets your assets and who will raise your children. If a court decided to divide your assets amongst your family members, would you trust all of your family members to handle your assets responsibly? A trust can help in this situation, as a trust allows you to dictate how assets can be used to make sure untrustworthy or incapable loved ones cannot handle their newly-acquired assets inappropriately. Do your loved ones know where they can find your assets? It is important to make sure this information is available to prevent a wild goose chase after you pass away.
What about real estate – do you own valuable real estate that you hope to pass down through your family? Or let’s say you own valuable or cherished personal property such as antique furniture or family heirlooms. Family turmoil often results from a failure to designate specific beneficiaries for meaningful personal property.
Further, who are the beneficiaries on your retirement and other financial accounts? Are they up to date? If you have gone through a divorce, have you removed your former spouse as a beneficiary? If not, your former spouse will still receive those assets even if he or she has no other rights to your other assets by virtue of the divorce.
In addition to distributing your assets, your estate plan will nominate individuals to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapable of doing so. This process can become very tricky and stressful for your loved ones if you fail to appoint an individual to act on your behalf.
Establishing a basic estate plan is one simple gift that everyone can give to their loved ones.