At this time of year, when people are making New Year’s resolutions, I can think of no more important resolution than protecting you and your family by finally having an appropriate estate plan prepared. Most people realize they need to have one done, but usually have a reason to put it off. Here are some of the most common reasons.
“I’m not going to die, so I don’t need to do anything”. Ben Franklin once said that nothing in this world is certain but death and taxes. Ben forgot to mention the probate court. Although death is inevitable for all of us, with proper estate planning paying estate taxes and going through the probate court are not.
“If I prepare my estate plan something bad is going to happen to me”. As an attorney specializing in this field I can say that there is no relationship between preparing an estate plan and when you’re going to pass away. If you are a superstitious person, think of it as buying an umbrella so that it doesn’t rain. In fact, the vast majority of my clients are still alive and well.
“I’ll do it later, because I have more important things to do first”. This reason reminds me of my younger brother. When asked to do something that needs to be done, he often responds by saying “maybe tomorrow”. Unfortunately, estate planning is not one of those things that can always be done tomorrow. For example, I have clients who’s adult child was recently injured in a car accident. His recovery is expected to take months. As a result, they have had to go through the probate court to seek permission to make medical and financial decisions for him, and to care for their own grandchildren. If their child had taken the time to create an appropriate estate plan before his injury, this could have been avoided. Putting off estate planning can also cost your family thousands of dollars in estate taxes. This is especially true for married couples. I can’t imagine anything more important than protecting yourself, your family and your assets.
“I have too many things to decide first”. Actually, to prepare an estate plan to protect your family in case of your disability or death, the only questions you need to answer are: 1.) Who do I want make my financial and medical decisions? 2.) Who do I want raise my minor children? 3.) Who will get my assets and how much? Having answered these questions, it’s time to sit down with an attorney to prepare a plan. At that time, you can also discuss how to avoid the probate court and estate taxes if these are issues for you.