Despite two years of COVID, two-thirds of Americans still lack an estate plan
It doesn’t make sense but is true. While we’ve never so closely known life’s fragility and know the importance of having a will, trust, or Power of Attorney, only a third of Americans have actually sat down with an estate planning attorney to create their estate plan. Many people equate estate planning with estate tax planning. Nothing can be further from the truth. Estate planning, simply stated, is making sure your assets end up with those you want to receive them
Why is this still so difficult for the average person, who stands to benefit both during and after their lifetime and whose family will be far better protected if they have an estate plan?
Mortality. Who wants to think about dying or what their family will do after they are gone? No one. But not addressing your estate plan could leave your family in a world of trouble. Estate taxes are the least of it. What if your estranged sister and brother-in-law inherit everything you own? Without a valid will, clearly stating how you want your assets distributed, it could happen.
We don’t have enough assets to need a will. People of modest means need a will, sometimes even more than people with significant wealth. You have assets worth protecting if you own a home, a retirement account, and a bank account. Without a will, those assets will pass according to the laws of your state. Remember, wealth is relative. Regardless of the value of your estate, preserving assets is the goal.
It’s expensive. Not having a will is far more costly. Without a will, administering your estate can cost more and is more closely supervised by the courts than if you had a will. An administrator’s powers are much more limited when there is no will than the powers of an executor under a will. The court will likely require an estate administrator to post a surety bond to protect the estate heirs. A bond can cost thousands of dollars per year until the estate is settled. When there is a will, the settlement of an estate is easier. If there is no will, a court proceeding known as an Accounting is required.
I don’t have time. Having a will made is something you make time for, just as you make time to see family and enjoy your favorite streaming shows.
Creating a comprehensive estate plan, including a Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, HIPAA Release Form, and a Living Will, helps your loved ones avoid arguing about your wishes if a serious medical emergency occurs. It will also save the time and cost of your loved ones from going to court to be named your guardian to act in your best interest. Your healthcare providers can decide based on your expressed wishes, but only if you have completed the proper healthcare documents. Otherwise, your adult children or healthcare providers will determine your end-of-life care; and it may not be the decision you want.
It’s too overwhelming. An estate planning attorney will walk you through the information you need to gather and help guide you and your loved ones through the process. They’ll tell you what you need and why. You have only to follow their instructions.
I have so many questions. We have answers. We are highly experienced estate planning attorneys and have worked with people like you to help them put their wishes into their estate plans and prepare for the future.