Believe it or not, nearly everyone has an estate. Your estate consists of everything you own— your car, your home, your rental and investment properties, your business interests, bank accounts, investment and stock accounts, life insurance, household items, and personal possessions. No matter how large or how modest your estate is, you can’t take it with you when you die.
In most cases, you probably want to control who gets your things and how after you pass away—and it is a “when” and not an “if. To ensure that your estate, no matter how modest, goes to the people or organizations you care most about, you need to provide instructional guidance designating the persons or charities whom you want to receive your certain assets, what items you want them to receive, and when. In addition, you will want this to happen with the least amount paid in taxes and legal fees.
That is the essence of estate planning—making a plan in advance and naming whom you want to receive the things you own after you die. However, good estate planning can be so much more than that. It can:
- Include instructions for passing your values(religion, education, hard work, etc.) in addition to your valuables.
- Provide guidance for your care if you become disabled before you die.
- Provide for family members with special needs without disrupting government benefits.
- Name a guardian for minor children.
- Protect your loved ones who might be irresponsible with money, dealing with creditors or collections, and/or going through a divorce.
- Provide for the transfer of your business at your retirement, disability, or death.
- Minimize taxes, court costs, and unnecessary legal fees.
Estate planning is beneficial to everyone.
- Estate plans are not just for seniors, although people do tend to think about it more as they get older. Unfortunately, we can’t predict how long we will live, and illness and accidents happen to people of all ages.
- Asset protection is not just for “the rich,” either. To the contrary, estate planning often matters more to families with modest assets, because they can afford to lose the least.
Too many people don’t plan.
People put off estate planning because they think they don’t own enough, they’re not old enough, they’re busy, think they have plenty of time, they’re confused and don’t know who can help them, or they just don’t want to think it. Then, when something happens to them, their families have to pick up the pieces.
If you don’t have a plan, your state has one for you, but you probably won’t like it.
At disability: If your name is on the title and you can’t manage the assets due to mental or physical incapacity, only a court appointee can sign for you. The court, not your family, will control how your assets are used to care for you. It can become expensive and time consuming, and it does not end automatically even after you recover.
At your death: If you die without an estate plan, your assets will be distributed according to the probate code. That means the beneficiary designations, their shares, and distribution time will be determined by the probate court. The distribution of your things would be a public process and involve quite a few third parties and court officials. Furthermore, if you and your spouse pass away at the same time (i.e., in a car accident), the court will appoint a guardian for your children without knowing whom you would have chosen.
Given the choice—and you do have the choice—wouldn’t you prefer these matters be handled privately by your loved ones, not by the courts? Wouldn’t you prefer to keep control of who receives your things and when? And, if you have young children, wouldn’t you prefer to have a say in who will raise them if you can’t?
Contact Attorney Milda Goeriz today to explore your estate planning needs and options for the protection of your property. Call our office at 619-630-4765!