Despite popular belief, estate plans are not exclusively for the wealthy and the elderly. Any person who earns an income and has loved ones should invest in, at the very least, a will. So, for most adults who do not already have an estate plan, that means they should begin planning their estates today.
That said, the decision to plan one’s estate is a highly personal one, and some people may decide to put it off until they reach a certain milestone in their life. If you are one of those people, there are a few questions you should ask yourself to determine whether or not you are ready.
Do You Have Children?
Though most people think the accumulation of wealth is the number one reason to plan an estate, we feel that the best reason to begin estate planning is the arrival of children. If you have children, ask yourself — what would become of them if you and your spouse both unexpectedly passed away? Though no parent wants to think about such a sad situation, the fact of the matter is, it happens.
A simple will can help you ensure your child is cared for by someone you chose and in a manner of your choosing should you pass away. It can also dictate how and when your child will inherit your assets, as well as ensure he or she is financially provided for when you are gone.
Have You Amassed Assets or Wealth?
The value and size of your estate should also dictate when you begin estate planning. If you live paycheck to paycheck, do not own any major assets and do not have children or a spouse, you may not need an estate plan just yet. However, if you have a sizeable savings, a 401(k) and own a home, you should start to put something together. Your need for an estate plan will only increase as your wealth does. For instance, if the value of your estate eventually exceeds the estate tax exclusions, you may want to talk to an attorney about using a trust to minimize the value of your estate.
Are You Concerned About Privacy, Cost or Delays?
If you don’t have an estate plan, or if your plan consists solely of a will, your estate will have to go through probate. Probate is a lengthy, costly and public affair. If you want your estate to pass to your heirs in a quick, private manner and cost-effective manner, talk to your estate planning attorney about creating a trust.
Do You Own a Business?
If you own a business and hope to keep it in the family even when you pass away, a well-thought-out estate plan can help you seamlessly pass your business and its assets to family members and other desired heirs.
Do You Have Any Special Circumstances?
Blended families and children with special needs are two of the most common “special circumstances” that necessitate a solid estate plan. For instance, individuals who remarry may want to leave their inheritance solely to their biological children and not their stepchildren, or they may want to protect certain assets from leaving the family. A solid estate plan can help you account for these scenarios and ensure your wishes are upheld.
When it comes to children with special needs, a special needs trust can protect your child’s financial future by allowing you to continue to support him or her without making him or her ineligible for public assistance. An attorney can help you devise such a trust so that it yields the most benefit for your child.
If you are wondering whether or not you need an estate plan, chances are, you do. During these trying times, when your health is as uncertain as the economic climate, it is even more important to start thinking about what you can do to protect your loved ones and your inheritance should something unexpectedly happen to you. You can find out more and start planning today by contacting our law office to consult with one of our estate planning attorneys.