Do you need an Estate Plan? The short answer is “Yes, if you are age 18 or older, you need an estate plan.” It doesn’t matter if you are old or young, if you have built up considerable wealth or if you are just entering adulthood —you need a written plan to keep you in control and to protect yourself and those you love.
- It is important that every adult, regardless of age or wealth, have both a lifetime plan and an after-death estate plan.
- Planning for incapacity will keep you in control and let your trusted loved ones care for you without court interference – and without the loss of control and expense of a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding.
- Every adult needs up-to-date health care directives.
- It is important to leave written instructions to make sure you are the one who selects who’s in charge of when and how your assets will be distributed.
What is an Estate Plan?
Your estate is comprised of the assets you own, including your car, home, bank accounts, investments, furniture and personal belongings. No matter how large or how small your estate, you can’t take it with you when you die, and you probably want certain people to have certain things you own.
To make sure that happens, you need to provide written instructions stating who you want to receive your assets and belongings, what you want them to receive, and when they are to receive it—that is the essence of an estate plan. If you have young children, you will need to name someone to raise them in your place and to manage their inheritance.
Without an estate plan, state law will govern who your assets will go to and how your estate is handled, and this can often lead to a surprising and undesirable result for your loved ones.
A properly prepared estate plan also will have instructions for your care (and the management of your assets) if you become incapacitated, even for a short time, due to illness or injury. Without the proper documents in place, your family will have to ask the court for permission to use your assets to take care of you and to oversee your care. That process is out of your control and it takes time and costs money, making an already difficult situation even more difficult for your family.
Having a plan in place is very important even for families of modest means because 1) they can least afford to pay unnecessary court costs and legal fees and 2) state laws, which take over in the absence of planning, often distribute assets in an undesirable way.
It is important to have the counseling and assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney who knows the laws in your state and has the expertise to guide you in making difficult decisions such as who will raise your children and who will look after your care at incapacity. Contact the attorneys at Wilson Ratledge to discuss any estate planning questions that you may have.