We hear the words “estate planning,” and many of us conjure images of sprawling mansions with well-manicured lawns and dramatic fights over family inheritances. The truth is, estate planning is not reserved for the wealthy and famous. If you are over 18, you would almost certainly benefit from having a plan in place for your estate. You could argue that estate planning is essential for a majority of U.S. adults; below are three reasons why that is.
1. Estate planning helps your family avoid probate court. Many adults who have dealt with the death of a loved one have also dealt with probate court. Probate court is the legal venue where one’s estate is administered—final debts are paid and probate assets are distributed to beneficiaries. The amount of time (and money) your loved ones spend in probate court is inversely related to the amount of estate planning you did.
In other words, with enough estate planning, you can allow your family to avoid probate court altogether. For instance, putting all your probate assets into a living trust allows your estate to completely avoid probate. Even having a self-proving Will can speed up the probate process so your beneficiaries receive their inheritances in a timely manner. Anything you can do ahead of time to eliminate the time your family needs to spend in probate court, the less stress they will go through.
2. You can ensure your wishes are followed if you lose capacity. If you know anything about estate planning, you probably know that you can bequeath assets to family, friends, and other beneficiaries in your Will, which goes into effect after you pass away. A well-crafted estate plan, however, can protect your wishes while you are still alive but unable to make or communicate wishes regarding your medical care. This is referred to as “incapacity.”
It’s uncomfortable to think about, but some important decisions about your health often need to be made when you lack capacity. For example, would you want to receive artificial hydration or nutrition if you enter a vegetative state? You can make your wishes known by making a living Will or health care power of attorney.
3. Estate planning gives you peace of mind. There’s no price tag on knowing that, if something were to happen to you tomorrow, you know exactly what would happen to your assets and minor children. While it’s comforting to know where your assets would go, it’s so important to have successor guardian designations in place. Without naming guardians for your minor children, there could be a long and complicated legal process to determine who would care for your little ones. And, the person the court decides on could be someone you wouldn’t want caring for your children.
Need Help With Your Estate Plan? We Want to Help
No two estate plans look alike. Your estate plan should fit your needs and objectives. Plenty of online do-it-yourself services out there offer ways for you to make your own estate plan, but these services are not always state-specific and can therefore leave gaping holes in your plan. You and your family deserve better; call Anthoor Law Group at 510-794-2887 to see what we can do for you.
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