Estate Planning: who needs it? Wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents can be very important for preserving your property and in directing that property where you want it to go. Without a will or trust in place, a person’s assets will be disposed of by state law upon his or her death. This state law, otherwise known as the law of intestacy, oftentimes does not match what the deceased person’s desires were as to whom should get the property or how the property should be handled. Even if current law does match a person’s wishes for distribution of his or her estate, the law is always changing. Unless a person wants to constantly keep up with the changes in the law, it is wise to have a will or trust.
Without a will or trust, a person has no opportunity to personally select guardians for minor children, to name the person who should manage the children’s assets until they are old enough to receive them, or to select the representative who should handle the details of distributing the estate. Without estate planning, these important decisions are left to a judge who will apply statutes and attempt to determine “what is reasonable” under the circumstances. I’m sure most people would prefer to set their own guidelines for for distribution and management of assets. For example, absent a will or trust, children would receive their share of the estate immediately upon reaching the age of majority. Through trust provisions, parents can give directions and restrictions on how and when assets should be distributed.
A well-written will or trust can minimize the costs of administering an estate. If a will is used, the will tells the probate court the deceased’s wishes; knowing this information, a court can more quickly and inexpensively approve procedures to carry out those wishes. Alternatively, a trust is used to avoid the probate process completely, allowing for the transfer of assets to beneficiaries with no court intervention.
Thinking about death, accident, or illness is never pleasant. However, if something does happen, that is not the time for family members to be forced into making important decisions, or to be burdened with excessive administrative details. Planning ahead is not only more efficient and inexpensive, but it is also more thoughtful than burdening a family during this period of immense grief. We all have worked too hard to accumulate property and income to allow it to be wasted on unnecessary court proceedings or to allow it to go to someone other than the people or cause of our choice. Call McAvoy & Murphy Law Firm today to receive a free booklet detailing your Estate Planning options, and to schedule a free consultation to determine your own personalized estate planning strategy.