What Is Estate Planning?
Whether or not they own property, everyone has an estate. An estate is simply a blanket term to describe your personal possessions and assets. Estate planning involves taking the time to decide and document what should happen to your belongings after your death.
You may consider such questions as:
- How should your wealth be distributed to your children?
- Who should take over your care if you become incapacitated?
- Are there any special requests for your funeral?
All these questions and more can be answered with an estate plan.
While it’s not the most exciting thing to think about, having an estate plan can ensure that your family is taken care of after you are gone. It takes a modest amount of time and expense, but the benefits of estate planning are immeasurable. Most people are unaware of just how important it is until a loved one passes away without a will — and the estate goes into probate.
What Happens When There Is No Estate Plan?
When someone dies without a will, the courts oversee the administration of his or her estate. An estate representative will inventory all assets, pay outstanding debts, pay taxes and then distribute anything left to the heirs. It sounds simple enough, but this scenario is a breeding ground for conflict among family members. If anyone is unhappy about the distribution of possessions, they may enter into probate litigation. Consider the following:
Family 1: While still in their late 20s, Gary and Pam consult an attorney and draw up a will. They have four children and a mortgaged house in the suburbs. While their children are in middle school and high school, Gary and Pam are killed in an interstate crash. In accordance with Gary and Pam’s arrangements, Pam’s sister and brother-in-law take in all four children. The family home is sold, and the money easily covers the funeral, and the remainder — plus life insurance money — is divided into college funds for the kids. Pam’s daughters inherit her grand piano and their grandmother’s first edition books. Gary’s sons inherit his favorite rare film camera and their grandfather’s military medals.
Family 2: Charlie and Andrea are so busy with jobs and four kids that they never get around to drawing up a will. When Charlie and Andrea are killed in a weekend speedboat accident, their friends are shocked and unsure of what to do. The kids go to four different foster homes while the state searches for someone to care for them. The bank forecloses on the house. Charlie’s brother and sister-in-law inventory the house for valuables, which are sold to pay for the funeral, and the sentimental things are lost in the chaos.
Discuss Your Estate Plan Options Today
If you’d like your children and grandchildren to have an inheritance or you want to clearly communicate certain directives about your medical care and finances, an estate plan is the best way to ensure that your wishes are executed. At Miles Hansford & Tallant, LLC, our lawyers have the experience, compassion and capability to guide you through every step of the estate planning process.