By Adam Keilen
If you die without an estate plan, your loved ones may have to go through the probate court process, wasting time and money. In probate, you run the risk that the court’s decisions may not be consistent with your goals; rather, intestate succession (the process automatically applied when there is no trust or will) determines how your assets are distributed.
Estate planning does not have to be expensive; however, even the most basic plans will offer you the following benefits:
- Designate Beneficiaries. Who would you like to leave your assets to? A will outlines these intentions; however, improperly titled assets can quickly undo the intentions of your will. Titling assets and designating beneficiaries with the advice of an attorney can avoid unintended consequences.
- Appoint a Guardian for Your Minor Children. The decision of whom you choose as a guardian for your children is perhaps the single best reason for creating a will. Choosing a guardian can eliminate interfamily disputes and any questions about your intention; you are able to appoint who you want to take care of your minor children in the event of your death.
- (In some cases) Create a Trust for Your Children. Parents should consider leaving assets in trust for the benefit of their children. Assets can be distributed immediately upon your children reaching a certain age, or, many families choose to make disbursements at various ages to prevent wasteful spending. Parents are able to name a trustee to manage the trust assets and make distributions for the benefit of the children over time.
- Designate Who Will Handle Your Financial and Health Care Decisions. Your estate plan will include financial and health care power of attorney designations. These appointments grant legal authority to whomever you want to make financial and medical decisions for you in the event of death or incapacity.
As the proverb states, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”