Rarely do people have the grace to know of their imminent death and plan for their demise. Everyone is busy and has no time, or reason, to think about estate planning. This can have very adverse effects on their surviving family members. I have been involved in cases where the decedent’s estate was distributed to estranged members of the family. If you do not have a will, the state has a mandatory “one size fits all” plan of distribution for you. That’s right… the state will determine who gets what, and when. Your family has little to no input.
Many people think you have to be wealthy to need Estate Planning. But proper estate planning involves much more than you may realize. Some thoughts to ponder:
- Disability planning – what happens if you become mentally incapacitated? You should have a Power of Attorney to avoid Orphan’s Court litigation to have a Guardian appointed for you. If you have a POA, do you know if it is a “Springing POA,” or one that is immediately effective? Do you know the difference?
- Living Will – We all remember the terrible Terri Schiavo litigation where her family members had a bitter fight with her husband, over “pulling the plug,” and where she was to be buried. A Living Will would have prevented this terrible family litigation and the national media circus that ensued.
- Will – If you have no Will and are married, but separated, your spouse will inherit from you, which is probably not what you would have wanted. With a Will, you select an Executor/is to administer your estate. Without a Will, the court will appoint an Administrator for you, which could be an attorney you have never met! With a Will, you can specify that a bond will not have to be obtained. Without a Will, you lose that choice. With a Will, you can specify who will care for your minor children and have control of their assets, should they not be of legal age. Without a Will, you give up this right.
- Trusts – With a Will or without a Will, your assets will be inventoried and have to go through the expense and delay of probate. Anyone can look up you financial worth, and the disposition of your assets. A Trust could maintain your privacy and save inheritance tax and estate tax.
Even if you have a Will, a Living Will, and a Power of Attorney, these documents should be fully understood by you, and reviewed every couple of years or upon a change of family circumstances such as a death, birth, divorce, marriage, of change in financial circumstances.
I would be happy to draft or review your legal documents. Please call me for an appointment out of concern for your loved ones and their financial well being. Our firm’s job is to remove the confusion from these matters, which could have life-long implications!