Recall in our first article on estate planning that we introduced you to some general information question about estate planning. Let’s start our series out now with a very basic question: Why do I need an estate plan? This is a very reasonable question! I think that the best answer lies in a few key points that I have outlined below. There are many reasons, and all are not here, but I find these to be the ones that make clients realize that it is very necessary to set up their plan.
- Avoid probate: If you’ve heard anything from a friend that has recently lost a parent, family member or friend, it is that “probate is a nightmare!” It’s tedious, slow and intrusive. The best way to avoid probate is to plan ahead with your estate plan. Why does that matter? If you have ever been through the pain and trauma of losing a loved one without a plan in place, you know that it’s expensive. That means you were stuck trying to make burial plans at the last minute. If everything is tied up in probate, there is no money freely flowing for burial expenses which means it has to come from someone’s pocket. Burials can easily cost over $10,000 for a basic arrangement.
- Name your beneficiaries: Sometimes it is very important to name the people to whom you want your items, or your funds, to go. Sometimes it is equally important – or more important – to name the people to whom you do not want your items, or your funds, to go to. The best way to ensure that your beneficiaries are certain is to plan ahead with your estate plan.
- Avoid estate tax: If you are fortunate enough to pass an estate that may incur estate tax (and don’t be so sure that you are not in that realm until a qualified professional has told you so), why on earth would you want to give it to the government? No offense Uncle Sam, but it makes more sense for our family to take our estate than you. The best way to avoid estate tax is to plan ahead with your estate plan.
- Name those in charge: Every one of our family and friends each has different strengths and weaknesses. In our house, my brother was the “medical” mind and I was the business mind. This directly translated to our roles for our parents as health care proxy and executrix. Whatever the reasons for your designation, having an estate plan ensures that the people you choose take charge of the various tasks in your life – and death.
- Avoid arguing: Mourning the loss of a relative is bad enough. The influx of difficulty that an unplanned death can bring makes it ten times more difficult. One of the biggest reasons to have an estate plan is to make sure that you state your intentions and that your family doesn’t fight over your estate plan for years after you are gone. The pain of losing a loved one is hard enough. When it comes unexpectedly, with no definitive plans, family members can often turn that pain against one another. Don’t let that happen to your family!
Remember to follow me this week for a series of articles about the many areas of estate planning. Always remember to check out my answers to questions posted on our Facebook page and check back often for more news, blogs and law updates on estate planning! As always, contact me when you are ready to meet and discuss, or update, your own estate plan.