Monday, February 3, 2014

Top 5 Reasons to Plan Your Estate

Let’s face it, we rarely believe that something will happen to us this year..but what if it did? Are you confident in what the outcome will be for the people that you love the most?

There are plenty of reasons to plan your estate now. I have listed five of the top reasons below. Although numbered, they are in no particular order of importance because everyone has different priorities and concerns.

If anything on this list strikes you as a concern, imagine the effect on your loved ones if you fail to take action. This should inspire you to make a firm to commitment to resolve this as soon as possible. Pick a date this year in which you will commit to competing your estate plan, and stick to it!

Okay, here are the top 5 reasons…

1)      Protect your family in the event of your incapacity. Without a properly drafted estate plan, your family will likely have challenges in managing any assets in your name, including your home. A court supervised conservatorship (otherwise referred to as a living probate) in which all of your transactions are recorded and affirmed through a series of court hearings will generally be required.  This public process goes on indefinitely, and requires your family to convince a judge (and in some cases even a jury) that you are unable to manage your own finances.

2)      Make your wishes known regarding distribution of your assets in the event of your death. Without an estate plan, any assets left in your name alone at your death will be left up to state law, and the probate court system, to determine who will receive those assets. 

3)      Avoid the delay and expenses of probate, and keep your affairs private with a living trust. Even if you have a valid will at the time you pass away, a court supervised process called probate will be required to inventory everything that you own and approve its distribution to your beneficiaries (spouse, children etc). The probate process is a public process in which anyone can review your probate file and determine what you have, who is scheduled to receive it, and when. Especially in today’s society, many people prefer to protect their loved ones by keeping their affairs private, which can only be accomplished through a properly drafted (and funded) living trust.

4)      Protect assets and keep them in the family.  Many people are concerned that property left to a child will be inherited by his or her spouse if that child were to die prematurely, or if the couple were to divorce. Leaving property to a child in trust helps ensure that those assets are kept separate and pass according to your wishes (i.e. to grandchildren).  These trusts may also protect asset from creditors if a child is ever involved in a lawsuit (business or personal) or collections effort. 

5)      Protect minor children by designating a guardian. Parents with minor children must ensure that they can decide who will raise their children if they die before those children become adults. Without a proper estate plan, a judge will make that decision under his or her own discretion. 

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