An estate plan allows you to get your affairs in order in the event you become incapacitated or die. A Will, which is the most basic estate planning tool, contains a written set of instructions to your loved ones as to how you want your estate to be distributed after your death.
So, what happens to your property if you don’t have a Will or estate plan?
If you die without a Will or any type of estate plan, your state’s intestacy laws will determine who will inherit your property. Intestacy laws may also determine who will act as guardian of your minor children. These laws do not consider personal circumstances or personalities, so your property and/or minor children can end up with a relative who you never would have chosen if you had the opportunity to establish an estate plan. In certain circumstances and in certain states, the state may benefit from the intestacy laws to a greater degree than your heirs.
To prevent this from happening, you should have an estate plan to distribute your property the way you want, when you want and to name a guardian for your minor children. However, keep in mind that a guardian named in your Will only takes effect after you die. If you are injured in an accident or you become incapacitated, your minor children may be taken into the custody of Child Protective Services until a guardian is appointed. Selecting temporary and/or permanent guardians can prevent this.
In addition, a properly drafted estate plan can help you avoid estate and inheritance taxes, avoid probate, avoid messy and costly court battles, protect beneficiaries and protect your assets from unforeseen creditors. In short, nearly every parent with minor children should have at least a Will. Further, any individual or couple having substantial assets, in addition to having a Will, should also consider tax planning to avoid estate and inheritance taxes.
About Nicole K. White
After losing a close relative, Nicole witnessed the devastation, enormous expense and chaos caused by not having a simple estate plan. It is Nicole’s mission to educate parents, especially single parents, about protecting themselves, their families, minor children, and assets with comprehensive Estate Planning.