Five Key Reasons You Need An Estate Plan… Even If You Think You Don’t Need One!

It’s more than a legal document

There is no doubt that legal documents like a Last Will & Testament, Health Care Power of Attorney, and Durable Financial Power of Attorney are crucial, but estate planning goes beyond document production. One area that folks often overlook is organizing their affairs for loved ones. Not only does this help them understand where everything is, it smooths the process for when that loved one must step in as Executor, Power of Attorney, etc. When you sit down to work with an attorney on an estate plan, you’re going to get the legal documents, but also the tools and advice you need to make things actually WORK for your loved ones.


Without a plan, unintended beneficiaries may get your stuff

By neglecting to have at least a Last Will & Testament, you willingly forfeit total control over who inherits your property. Instead, the “Intestate Laws” kick in (doesn’t it sound fun?) and dictate who inherits. For the most part, it’s immediate family at first, and then your nearest blood relatives. But if you don’t have a will and you’re married with children, if you intend for your spouse to get everything, that may not happen. The intestate laws say that the surviving spouse and children actually split the estate (whatever is not joint, not given by beneficiary form, etc.). If you want your spouse to inherit everything if you die first, why risk it?


Even if you think your estate is simple, without a plan, there may be conflict

A solid, well-written estate plan goes a long way in preventing conflicts, because there is less room for interpretation. Remember, if there are questions about your estate that haven’t been answered, and you’re not there to answer them, it likely falls to an indifferent, overburdened judge to answer them. And that could take YEARS depending on the dispute.


It’s not just about death – what about incapacity?

Powers of Attorney/Incapacity Planning is often overlooked. What if you can’t handle your own affairs, in the short-term or long-term? Without having appointed someone in advance as Power of Attorney, you risk a court-appointed guardian acting on your behalf. You don’t get to choose who that is. A court oversees the guardian, and so therefore, a lawyer is involved. If your family fights over who should be guardian, expect even higher legal fees. 


Think you’re not wealthy enough to worry about a plan?

Today, planning centers less around inheritance/estate taxes, and more around legacy planning, elder planning, and asset protection. It doesn’t matter how much or little in assets you‘ve got. You’ve worked hard for what you have and deserve to protect it. With a plan, you can minimize conflicts, legal fees and court involvement. Furthermore, you can possibly protect part of your estate from being spent on long-term care costs and protect irresponsible heirs from themselves and others. But you can’t do any of this unless you sit down with an attorney to plan.