The idea of estate planning might be one of the scariest things you have to confront as an adult. After all, nobody wants to think about their death. Or incapacity. But estate planning does not have to make chills run down your spine. On the contrary! Estate planning is empowering for both you and your family and allows you to live confidently knowing that things will be taken care of in the event of your passing or incapacity. Remember, estate planning is not just for the ultra-rich. If you own anything or have young children, you should have an estate plan. Read below to find out reasons why.
Benefits of Estate Planning
Proper estate planning accomplishes many things. It puts your financial affairs in order. Parents should designate a guardian for their minor or disabled children, so the children are cared for by someone who shares your values and parenting style. Homeowners can make sure their property is transferred to the proper beneficiary in the event of untimely death. Business owners can ensure the enterprise they’ve worked so hard to build stays within the family.
Yet, according to WealthCounsel’s 2016 Estate Planning Literacy Survey, only 40% of Americans have a will and just 17% have a trust in place. This means a majority of American families not being adequately protected against the eventual certainty of death or the potential for legal incapacity.
When it comes to estate planning, knowledge is vital. Less than 50 percent of those surveyed by WealthCounsel understood that an estate plan can be used to address several concerns – financial or non-financial matters – including health decisions and guardianship, avoiding court and preempting family conflicts, protecting an inheritance for your beneficiaries, as well as taking advantage of business and tax benefits.
Estate Planning Horror Stories
Legal disputes over estate plans and wills – or, usually, the lack of having these in place at all – are common. These conflicts can cause harm to family relationships and be financially burdensome. Disputes among the rich-and-famous often made headlines, but disputes among everyday folk stay buried in courts for years.
Some scary outcomes of inadequate or non-existent estate planning include:
- Prince, who died without a will, leaving lawsuits and hefty lawyer’s fees for his family;
- Whitney Houston, whose failure to update her will negatively affect her daughter Bobbi Kristina’s inheritance;
- James Gandolfini, who didn’t finish planning causing his estate to be hit with unnecessary and easily avoided death taxes;
- Michael Jackson, who set up trusts for his children but never funded them resulting in a multiple probate court battles;
- Philip Seymour Hoffman, who never set up trusts for his kids causing their inheritances to be unnecessarily taxed; and most recently
- Aretha Franklin, who never set up a will or trust, and whose estate will likely remain in probate for at least a year.
These horror stories are not limited to wealthy celebrities. WealthCounsel’s survey found that more than one-third of respondents know someone who has experienced, or have themselves suffered, family disputes due to the failure of an existing estate plan or inadequate will. Additionally, more than half of those who have established an estate plan did so to reduce family conflict. Preserving family harmony is for everyone – not only for the wealthy or celebrities.
Attorneys: Your Guide to Not-So-Spooky Estate Planning
Estate planning can be confusing as each circumstance is unique and requires different tools to achieve the best possible outcome. Nearly 75 percent of those surveyed by WealthCounsel said estate planning was a confusing topic and valued professional guidance in learning more – so you’re not alone if you aren’t sure where to begin.
We’re here to help. An estate planning attorney is essential in determining the best way to structure your will, trust, and estate plan to fit your needs. If you or someone you know has questions about where to begin – contact us today. Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd. has been protecting families and their legacies for decades. We offer free, no-obligation seminars every month around Northern Nevada to teach and guide people about how to plan appropriately for these inevitable issues.