I’m not wealthy — Why do I need an estate plan?
Don’t be fooled into thinking you need to have a fat bank account and a mansion house at the Shore to need a sound estate plan – the area of law that covers wills, trusts, and probate. How much money you have is only one factor out of many that you need to consider when planning for the future. If you already have an up-to-date will, that’s a good and necessary start. But in many cases, it will not cover all the bases that should be considered ahead of time to make things easier for your heirs if you die or become incapacitated.
Even a modest lifestyle includes assets that have value, including:
• Equity in your home
• Investments, like stocks, mutual funds, and land
• Retirement accounts & pensions
• Vehicles and boats
• Rare or valuable collectors’ items
• Life insurance
• Business ownership
Estate planning involves determining how all of a person’s assets will be managed and/or distributed after death. It also takes into account the management of an individual’s properties and financial obligations such as debt. Here are a few of the benefits an estate plan offers:
Probate is the legal process for reviewing the assets of a deceased person and determining inheritors. By creating a trust and strategically placing assets within its control, it is easier to avoid the hassle and expense of a lengthy probate process. And since probate proceedings are usually of public record, avoiding probate can help protect your privacy.
Planning for individual family situations:
Families come with joys but also problems that can carry into the time after you’re gone. An estate plan allows you to specify how and when your assets are dispersed, to whom, and under what conditions. Providing for blended families, children from a previous marriage, and dependents with special needs will also require careful planning.
Protecting a business:
Owners of small businesses may wish to plan for the business to be sold or to continue after they are gone. In an estate plan, a business owner can lay out specific instructions about who will inherit the business and how to maintain its legacy.
Anyone, regardless of financial status, may wish to leave some assets to charity. By stipulating such wishes in an estate plan, you can be confident that they will be carried out.
As we discussed in last month’s blog, Why DIY Estate Planning Is a Really Bad Idea beware of trying to create a legally viable estate plan on your own from internet documents – if not properly executed and regularly updated, they may not hold up legally. And remember, you don’t have to be a millionaire to speak with a qualified estate-planning attorney at Sussan, Greenwald & Wesler. We will be glad to custom-tailor an estate plan that fits your needs – call us for a private consultation at 609-409-3500.