One of the biggest myths in estate planning is that only wealthy people have an estate and need to have an estate plan. Nothing can be further from the truth. You have an estate. An “estate” just means anything you want to protect (i.e. your “assets”), meaning people of all income and wealth levels can benefit. So, in reality, estate plans aren’t just for the ultra rich — they’re for everyone.
According to statistics, however, more than half of all Americans don’t even have a will — let alone an estate plan; what’s scarier, trends dictate fewer and fewer people are even thinking about estate planning. Here are four reasons that mentality needs to change, and the sooner you get this done, the better.
1. You Protect Your Family
The first step in estate planning is to complete your incapacity planning. Accidents and illness happen to all of us, and we need to be prepared, so our loved ones don’t have to make legal decisions and deal with regulation at a time of grief and stress. Experts recommend children headed to college have incapacity planning in place. So, establish your goals. Whether you want to be sure you’ve planned care for a minor child, an elderly parent, or a someone who is disabled, or arranged to distribute real and personal property to certain individuals, having your plan in place will help you sleep at night.. A careful and comprehensive understanding of your and your family’s needs for the future is imperative. Think of it this way: if you have time to plan a family vacation, you have time to make sure your future self and loved ones are protected.
2. Your Finances Will be Secure Now & After You Are Gone
Perhaps one of the best — and most immediate — benefits of having an estate plan? You will be in full control of your finances. Possibly for the first time ever! And here’s the best part: often when after making this first step, you will discover a new sense of discipline with other aspects of your financial life such as saving for retirement or big purchases. Additionally, an estate plan allows you to dictate exactly how and when your children or grandchildren will receive an inheritance, which is particularly important for minors or those who need additional guidance to manage their assets. In short, it puts you in control.
3. You Take “Risk” Out of the Equation
An important aspect of a good estate plan is to mitigate against future and current risks. For example, imagine if you were to become disabled and unable to support your family, or if you were to die early. An estate plan allows you to choose who will be in control of your personal assets, instead of the court appointing a legal guardian who could cost money, make decisions you might not approve of, and upset your family during a difficult time. Sure, thinking about these circumstances is never fun — and can certainly be scary — but preparing ahead of time ensures your loved ones will be prepared should an unfortunate tragedy occur. And that’s what matters.
4. Your Privacy & Legacy Are Protected
Did you know if you don’t have a fully funded, trust-based estate plan when you die, that it’s available for public view? Yep, it’s true; anyone can see it. This occurs when a will is probated; probate is the legal process by which a court administers the deceased person’s estate. A solid estate plan should generally avoid a need for involvement by the probate court — it’s costly and public — and without it, your family’s privacy can be maintained.
So what now? Seek help from an estate planning attorney, who will have a broader and deeper knowledge of potential problems, financial implications, and the law itself. This is something for which you don’t want to take a shortcut. This is your life, your family’s life — and your legacy. That’s why it’s essential to work with an attorney who understands your values and your fears, and will counsel you as, together, you design your custom plan.
As someone who has gone through the loss of both parents as well as a personal divorce, I understand first-hand the urgency of looking out for your children. At Flagship Law, personal, one-on-one service is the highest priority. Clients work exclusively with me every step of the way — my job is to give you a measure of peace, knowing you have protected the ones you love.