Why would someone need an estate plan?

One thing in life is certain, death comes to us all. While none of us like to think about dying, the fact is that improper or no planning leads to family disputes, assets going into the wrong hands, long court litigations, large amounts of dollars in federal tax and not to mention all those fees spent on probate. Having an estate plan is the best way to ensure your wishes are adhered to, and the people in your life who you love are not only taken care of, but don’t end up turning on each other.

Is money really the main concern?

Absolutely not. Estate Planning is about preparing for your life and leaving your legacy. If you were in an accident and incapacitated, wouldn’t you feel better knowing you already elected a person to handle your medical decisions and that person knows your wishes? The same goes for your financial decisions. If you don’t choose, then the state will choose for you.

We as consumers often hear about probate, but what does that mean?

Probate is the court process of administering a deceased person’s estate. Because it is a court process, it is a matter of public record. Public record means anyone who wishes to look, has access to some of the most private information. For example, this is how creditors find the information they need to collect from estates. When you hear about families being left with nothing but debt – that is what they mean. Avoiding probate is the same as protecting your beneficiaries.

What happens if you don’t have a will?

If your estate is unprotected upon death, then the state in which you die determines how your estate is to be administered. It has to go somewhere right? The process is called “intestate succession.” And let me assure you, while the laws are written to protect, often times things happen under the state laws that we would never in a million years want to happen.

When should someone consider having an estate plan drafted?

There are 9 life events that trigger either the drafting of a plan or the reviewing of an existing plan.

1.    Marriage
2.    Re-Marriage
3.    Divorce
4.    The Birth of a Child
5.    The Death of a Beneficiary
6.    Illness or disability
7.    A substantial increase in assets or income
8.    Moving to another state
9.    Changes in state law

Of course creating or updating an estate plan is not usually the first thing on someone’s mind during a life event, so in order to cover your bases you should have your plan reviewed every few years.  If you ask your attorney who drafted your plan, they will usually review your plan at no charge. Making it very important to choose an attorney who you want a continuing relationship with.

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