If you don’t have an estate plan in place, have you ever stopped to ask yourself why? If you’re one of the millions of Americans who think an estate plan is only useful if you’re wealthy, you’ve unfortunately fallen for a widespread and damaging misconception.
Sure, estate plans are vital to ensuring that someone’s wealth and property transfers to their loved ones after death – but they can and do fulfill much more important roles. Many of these roles have little or nothing to do with what you have in the bank or stuffed under your mattress.
If you have minor children, you need an estate plan no matter how wealthy you are. Should you pass away before your child turns 18, the court will have to determine who will care for them in your place.
By drafting a will, you can assign a preferred guardian to care for your child. The court will do its diligence to vet your preferred guardian, but if everything checks out, it is inclined to affirm your decision. You can assign anyone to be a guardian for your child, including the child’s adult sibling, your own siblings, your parents, aunts and uncles, and even friends.
You should always discuss this matter with whomever you want to care for your child to make sure they are willing and capable of fulfilling this role should the worst come to pass.
Establishing a Trust ensures your assets are used for the benefit of your minor children.
Medical Care & Financial Decisions
An estate plan can cover more than just your postmortem matters. In fact, it’s recommended that people assign agents with powers of attorney. These agents can act in a person’s stead should they become too sick or injured to direct the course of their affairs.
A Power of Attorney for Healthcare can be someone you assign to make medical care decisions on your behalf. You inform your loved ones in writing how you want to be treated if you’re unable to answer for yourself. Your agent in this case should be someone who you not only trust, but who understands your end-of-life care wishes..
You can also assign power for someone to handle your financial affairs. The situation for needing a financial power of attorney isn’t always dire. Sometimes people realize their age has become a serious factor in their ability to remember things or pay their bills. They may ask a trusted loved one to manage their finances for them by granting powers of attorney.
Minimize Heartache & Hardship for Your Loved Ones
Dying intestate – that is, without even a basic will – is never ideal for your surviving kin. They’ll have to jump through all sorts of legal hoops during the probate process,
Issues like guardianship, paying your debts, filing taxes, dividing property, and more still need to be addressed. Without a will providing instructions on how these affairs should be conducted, the state’s laws will determine inheritance. Guardianship could be entirely decided by the court,
Your loved ones could also be in a position where they must pay court fees out of their own pockets to afford this necessary process. On top of it all, the stress added to their lives – which could persist for a year or longer – can have drastic ramifications in their everyday lives.
Property Distribution and Pets
You might not have a lot of cash or valuable property. However, what about sentimental items and family heirlooms? You can save these things from ending up in a landfill or in strangers’ hands at an estate sale by creating a estate plan. Your plan can clearly outline who among your loved ones should receive items you feel are most important to pass on.
While most people don’t really think about their pets as “property,” they are, as far as the law is concerned. If you have a beloved pet in your life, especially one that could outlive you, assigning a new caretaker in your estate plan is something to consider. You can also set up a pet trust to provide for your pet after your passing. This can ensure your beloved animal friend will not end up in a situation you would have never wanted.
Do You Need Help Preparing an Estate Plan?
Hopefully, by now, we’ve impressed upon you why having an estate plan is important for reasons beyond the cash value of your estate. No matter what you own now or in the future, it’s always good to have even just a basic estate plan in place – and there’s never a better time than right now to create one.
If you want assistance in creating a plan that’s right for you and your loved ones, reach out to Kitzke & Canfield LLC for help. Call us today at (262) 387-0706 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.