The Practical Guide to Estate Planning: Eight Important Facts Everyone Should Know
Everyone can benefit from having a plan in place if the unexpected happens.
Still, more than half of American adults lack basic estate planning documents, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). It’s not surprising that younger people tend to put this kind of planning on the back burner but everyone can benefit from going through the process now.
Here are eight essential estate planning facts to consider:
Estate planning is for people of all ages and income levels.
Many people assume if they don't have any money, they don't need a will. Or that they don’t need to think about estate planning until they are elderly. The truth is, everyone can benefit from estate planning, including a will, advance health care directive, and durable power of attorney. No matter what your stage of life or income level, the best time to create an estate plan is now. Making these preparations in advance gives you time to explore all your options and make the best choices. If you wait too long, you may miss the opportunity to plan. No one knows what the future holds and accidents can happen to anyone at any age.
Without a plan, the state is in control.
If you pass away without an estate plan, you give up control over who inherits your property. Instead, your state’s intestacy laws kick in, dictating how your assets are divided up and passed on. Having an estate plan is the only way to ensure that your possessions are bequeathed in accordance with your wishes.
Minor children could be in limbo if you fail to plan for their care.
If you’re the parent of young children, the thought of them being cared for by someone you didn’t choose would be upsetting. However, if you don’t have a will to assign a guardian for your minor children, you will have no voice in the decision regarding their care.
Proper planning can protect your beneficiaries.
Whether your heirs inherit your assets through your will or your state’s intestacy laws, those assets are vulnerable to creditors. They are treated just like other property and earnings and can be lost to creditors, lawsuits, and divorce, among other possibilities. By leaving assets to beneficiaries through a trust, it provides a measure of financial protection.
It’s essential for non-traditional families.
If you’re a member of a non-traditional family, you need an estate plan to make sure your assets are distributed to the loved ones you choose. Without a plan in place, state intestacy statutes distribute property according to traditional family patterns. That means that if you are in a relationship other than a traditional marriage, your property would bypass your partner and go to your parents or other blood relatives. Protect your partner by meeting with a qualified estate planning attorney and drawing up the necessary legal documents.
If you want to give generously to charity, you need an estate plan.
Do you want part of your estate to go to a favorite charity? Intestacy laws leave no room for charitable contributions so you need to account for them through your estate plan.
Estate planning is a process.
Putting an estate plan in place is a smart first step. Once your documents are signed and filed, you will need to ensure that they reflect your life as it evolves. Changes like marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child can render these documents obsolete or inaccurate. Reviewing your plan on a regular basis and keeping your estate planning attorney aware of any life changes will ensure that your plan continues to meet your needs.
You don’t have to go it alone.
Estate planning can be intimidating. It also involves complex rules and laws, creating many opportunities for errors. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you navigate the process and put an effective plan in place.
To avoid unnecessary stress and complications for your loved ones, get your affairs in order now. If you have questions or if you need additional resources, you are always welcome to contact us.
About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 25 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved ones. For more information about our funeral, cremation, memorial, and repast services, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.