When it comes to putting off or refusing to create an estate plan, we come up with all sorts of rationalizations: “I’m too young,” or “That won’t happen to me”.
The first step in creating a proper plan is understanding the potential consequences of going without one. While each estate and family are unique, here are some of the things that can happen if you fail to create a plan.
1. Your family will have to go to court
If you do not have a plan, or if you only have a will, you’re forcing your family to go through probate upon your death. Probate is the legal process for settling your estate and transferring your assets.
This process can take months, or even years, to complete. Yet, the most burdensome part of probate is the frustration and anxiety it can cause your loved ones.
A properly drafted Will and well, organized affairs can minimize the probate process. Using a trust, can ensure that your assets pass directly to your family upon your death, without the need for any court intervention.
2. You have no control over who inherits your assets
If you die without a plan, the court will decide who inherits your assets through the state’s intestate succession laws, which hinge largely upon whether you are married and if you have children.
But you can change all of this with a plan and ensure your assets pass the way you want.
An important note is that state intestacy laws only apply to blood relatives, so unmarried partners and/or close friends would get nothing without at least a simple will.
Also, if you’re married but have children from a previous relationship, your children get most everything and your spouse can be left fighting with step-children.
Creating a plan that handles your assets and your care in the exact manner you wish, considering all of your family dynamics, is essential.
3. You have no control over your medical, financial, or legal decisions in the event of your incapacity
Although planning for your eventual death is a big part of the process, it’s just as important to plan for your potential incapacity due to accident or illness.
If you become incapacitated and have no plan in place, your family would have to petition the court to appoint a guardian or conservator to manage your affairs. This can be a greater burden than your death.
Specific planning vehicles can be put in place that grant the person(s) of your choice the immediate authority to make your medical, financial, and legal decisions for you in the event of your incapacity.
4. You have no control over who will raise your children
If you are the parent of minor children, the most devastating consequence of having no estate plan is what could happen to your kids in the event of your death or incapacity.
Your number-one planning priority should be naming legal guardians to care for your children if anything should happen to you.
Naming legal guardians will not keep your family out of court, as a judge is always required to finalize the legal naming of guardians, but it is best when you can give the judge clear direction.
No more excuses
There is a great peace that come with knowing that you and your loved ones will be provided for according to your wishes, not some state laws that do not understand your unique situation.
Lasca Arnold Pendley, focuses on Estate Planning and Probate Law in Boerne, to help you make informed decisions about life and death, for you and the people you love.