Some recent surveys indicate 64% of Americans don't have a will. What's more troubling is 27% of those same respondents stated there was no sense of urgency in getting their estate planned and 15% said they didn't need one at all. While every estate is different, here at the Braun Law Offices we truly believe we can provide you an individualized estate plan to best meet your needs. Still aren't convinced? Keep reading as we debunk some myths and discover why EVERYONE needs an estate plan.
1. "I'm young and single, I don't need an estate plan."
I've heard from countless individuals that they don't need an estate plan because they are single. This mindset couldn't be farther from the truth because, at some point, everyone is going to die. Since everyone is going to die, everyone will also leave a legacy of some sort. It is time to ask yourself, "what kind of legacy do I want to leave?" Do you want to be that crazy aunt or uncle who dies intestate (without a will) only to become an emotional and financial burden on your family while you are 6-feet under? Or do you want to be that awesome family member that plans ahead and makes sure everything you worked for in life is used to the best of YOUR wishes?
Another thing that some single folks don't realize is that a will is not the only part of a complete estate plan. If you become incapacitated from a tragic event, an illness, or simply old age do you really want a judge to decide who can pay your bills, handle your money, or pull the plug on life-support? A proper estate plan will ensure you select those individuals you trust to act on your behalf. There's no better time to prepare than now. Take a lesson from ole Ben Franklin: "by failing to prepare, you preparing to fail."
2. "I don't have an estate, so I don't need an estate plan."
One of the most misunderstood terms in this field is the term "estate." While you may not own a McMansion like Richie Rich, each and every person has an estate. That's because your estate consists of everything you own when you die, including your home, personal property, investments, bank accounts, retirement plans and any interests in a family business or partnership. In Ohio, if one dies without a will the law will fill in the gaps to determine who gets what.
If the decedent (the one who has died) dies without a will the estate could pass through probate and create a myriad of problems. The estate may become subject to estate tax thereby lessening the estate, it could become public record and allow the world a peek into your private affairs, or it could go to a beneficiary the decedent intended to keep out of the estate. Consulting with an attorney and obtaining an estate plan will ensure your estate, no matter how big or small, is preserved and transferred seamlessly according to your wishes.
3. "It's all going to my kids so I don't need an estate plan."
If you have children then you absolutely NEED an estate plan. Whether your children are young or old there are countless ways for your estate to become a problem if you die unprepared.
For the one with young children, if you and your partner happen to die while the children are minors your children may obtain access to the whole estate upon turning 18. Not too many 18 year-olds are going to be wise with such a windfall so in order to combat that risk you may decide to slowly distribute the estate to the child upon reaching certain milestones. Another problem that presents itself is who will be the child's guardian until they reach adulthood? A will is an excellent place to nominate a trusted individual to become the child's guardian.
For the one with adult children, if you and your partner pass away without a will the children will have a number of potential problems to sort through. Who should be named the estate administrator? What if mom or dad verbally promised Mitchell the car? What if Stacy wants to live in the house but Mitchell wants to sell it? This can create enormous tension and animosity between families. Emotional entanglements will no doubt play a role in the division and it is not uncommon for families to then sue one another.
As you can see there are numerous problems that can be prevented through just a simple phone call to a trusted attorney. I hope that as we replace the calendar on the wall in a few weeks you will stop procrastinating and get down to business. It's tough thinking about dying and leaving the ones you love but the best gift you could give them this holiday season is knowing their future is secure.
Joseph M. Braun is an attorney in Hamilton, Ohio. He specializes in estate planning, probate, real estate, administrative law, and other general practice areas. You can connect with him by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or liking him on Facebook