Let’s face it. We all know why you’ve put off estate planning for this long.
You don’t want to think about your death. And there is no shame in that. Death is scary!
But so is the prospect of leaving your loved ones on the hook for YOUR procrastination. Even a little ambiguity concerning your assets could land them on the hook for heaps of your debt, in probate court for years, and scrambling to balance all of the bureaucracy you’ve left them to deal with as they cope with your passing.
And I have even worse news.
Your imminent death is not the only reason you will want to plan your estate as soon as humanly possible…trust me.
Here are 4 reasons that will have you running to call your lawyer and plan your estate today.
Reason #1: You Do NOT Want Your Family to End Up in Probate Court
After your death or debilitation, the last thing you would want to do is put your family through the emotional and fiscal hardship that comes with probate court.
So what is probate court?
“Probate court addresses the assets of an individual’s estate when they pass away. It is a long and slow process,” says Werner Law Firm, probate attorneys in California. “One of the primary goals of estate planning is to avoid probate.“
Simple probate court cases can take a year to process. Yes, you read that right. The SIMPLE ones.
Then, after all questions involving assets and beneficiaries have been resolved, recipients might need to wait another entire year to receive their inheritances. Considerable debt can lengthen this process.
Not only is probate court financially taxing and time consuming, but it is also public record. This means that anyone can see what happened in your family’s probate court case, which also means that YOUR business is open for anyone to see after your death or debilitation. Yikes!
If you want you and your family’s affairs to stay private, planning your estate should be a priority.
Reason #2: You Don’t Want to Leave Anyone Out
If you come from a big family like I did, you know how hard it is to remember to invite everyone to the biannual reunion (sorry, Aunt Gina), let alone make sure each and every one of them knows how much you care for them after you pass.
It’s a lot of pressure, sure, but if you really care about the message your family members receive afte your passing or debilitation, you will prioritize getting this right!
After all, Aunt Gina hasn’t even let go of the reunion thing, and that was in 2009. Imagine what you’d have to endure in the afterlife…
Reason #3: You Never Know What Could Happen
Wills aren’t just for those who expect to die soon. Wills are for anyone who has an asset they would like to protect.
For example, if you are in a high risk or physically demanding job, you especially should consider a will to protect your loved ones, yourself, and your assets should you become permanently disabled.
If you ever must enter into a medically induced coma or be anesthetized for a medical procedure, you should have an estate plan in place, ready to take care of your family and your assets in the case that you do not wake up.
Another reason other than imminent death to consider drafting an estate is the preservation of any religious or moral rules you abide by in the case of your inability to enforce them yourself. For example, certain religious sects forbid blood transfusions or resuscitation, even if a doctor deems them necessary for your survival.
Having an estate plan in the form of medical directives instructs doctors on how they should proceed with your care if you are unconscious or debilitated.
Reason #4: Consulting with an Attorney is Usually Free
So there’s no reason not to!
Let’s imagine a best-case scenario: you have a comfortable but middling net worth without any particularly complex assets. Surely you don’t need a lawyer then, right?
See, you might be right that the division of your assets ought to be fairly straightforward and simple. In an ideal world, it would be! But different states throughout the country have different laws regarding the distribution of property.
There are some funky laws, loopholes, and other legal entanglements you can get knotted up in if you aren’t familiar with all the idiosyncrasies of your state or municipality. A quick, one-time consultation with a lawyer could save you and your family, hours upon hours upon HOURS of headaches from wrestling with bureaucracy.
So, with your lists and your “first draft” will in hand, call up a qualified estate planning professional and get planning today. When you are gone or otherwise disabled, your family will thank you for thinking ahead!