Everyone has an estate. Whether all you own are the clothes on your back or you are a multi-millionaire, you have an estate. An estate is a shorthand term that simply means everything you own. This includes your car, home, other real estate, bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, life insurance, furniture, collections and all personal possessions. Whether you have a large amount of property worth millions of dollars or a modest one consisting of your home, car, checking account and personal belongings, everyone has an estate. The other fact that everyone has in common is that you can’t take it with you when you die.
When that happens (as much as we might not like to admit it, it is a “when” and not an “if”) you probably want to control how those things are given to the people or organizations you care most about. To ensure your wishes are carried out, you need to provide instructions stating whom you want to receive something of yours, what you want them to receive, and when they are to receive it. It goes without saying that everyone wants this to happen with the least amount paid in taxes, legal fees, and court costs.
Simply put, estate planning is making a plan in advance and naming whom you want to receive the things you own after you die. Good estate planning should be much more than that. It should also do the following:
- Incorporate your wishes and values into a viable estate plan;
- Include instructions and necessary documents for your care if you become disabled before you die;
- Name a guardian to care for your children in the event both parents die before the children are emancipated;
- Name a fiduciary to manage the inheritance for minor children until they reach an age where they can effectively do so;
- Provide for family members with special needs without disrupting potential government benefits;
- Provide for loved ones who might be irresponsible with money or who may need future protection from creditors or divorce;
- Include life insurance to provide for your family at your death, disability income insurance to replace your income if you cannot work due to illness or injury, and long-term care insurance to help pay for your care in case of an extended illness or injury;
- Provide for the transfer of your business at your retirement, disability, or death;
- Minimize taxes, court costs, and legal fees;
- Reduce the need to probate (go to Court) your estate;
- Be an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Your plan should be reviewed and updated as your family and financial situations (and laws) change over your lifetime.
Estate planning is for everyone.
It is not just for “retired” or “older” people. Unfortunately, we cannot successfully predict how long we will live. Illness and accidents happen to people of all ages. Estate planning is not just for “the wealthy.” Good estate planning often means more to families with modest assets, because they can afford to lose the least. Anyone who has minor children wants to ensure they are properly cared for in the event they and the other parent die or otherwise cannot raise the minor children. Most people would prefer to pass their estate to their heirs or a charity than having the state take their estate to cover nursing care expenses.
Too many people do not have a plan.
Individuals put off estate planning for a variety of reasons:
- They believe that they do not own enough property to justify an estate plan;
- They think they are not old enough;
- They are busy;
- They think they have plenty of time to take care of it;
- They are confused or overwhelmed by the process and do not know who can help them; or
- They just don’t want to deal with it (no one likes to think about their mortality).
Then, when something happens to them, their families have to deal with the consequences of not properly planning.
Contact Us For a Confidential Consultation:
Contact the attorneys at Berid & Schutzbank for a confidential consultation about your estate planning needs.