According to a recent study, 60 percent of Americans do not have an estate plan in place. As National Estate Planning Awareness Week approaches (the third week in October), the attorneys at Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. are committed to raising awareness of the need for everyone to have an estate plan.
From our perspective, a great many family members, including young children, needlessly suffer each year simply because otherwise responsible loved ones haven’t taken the time to protect their futures. This blog is designed to provide persuasive evidence that creating an estate plan is practical, offering those closest to you security and peace of mind. We encourage you to spread the word.
Reasons You Need an Estate Plan
Working on an estate plan with a skilled attorney will accomplish the following:
1. Provide a will in which you name your beneficiaries, choose a guardian for your minor children, and designate a personal representative (executor) to distribute your assets according to your stated wishes. After all, if you die without a will (intestate), the distribution of your assets will be decided not by you, but by the intestate succession laws of Massachusetts. If no appropriate blood relatives are found, the state will simply absorb your accumulated wealth.
2. Create trusts to serve a number of particular purposes, such as:
- Avoiding the costs and delays of probate, which is especially important if you have a high net worth or a complex estate
- Eliminating unnecessary taxes
- Providing a safety net for family members with special needs so that their lives
can be enriched by an inheritance while still remaining eligible for government benefits (e.g. Social Security Disability)
- Protecting your assets from creditors, scams, lawsuits, and divorced spouses
- Protecting an heir irresponsible with money from squandering their inheritance
- Preplanning for business succession so there will be a smooth transition when you retire or pass away
- Arranging to support a favorite charity and a beloved beneficiary as well
- Preparing for unexpected incapacity by maintaining eligibility for Medicaid and other government benefits
3. Prepare documents for potential incapacity and end-of-life healthcare to spare your loved ones the pain and frustration of being unable to discuss your medical condition with your doctors, to make crucial medical decisions on your behalf, or to agree on what lifesaving measures you might want when critically ill.
4. Prevent family disputes or estrangements by clarifying precisely and in legally binding terms how you want your estate handled after you pass away.
Why People Procrastinate When It Comes to Estate Planning
There are a number of factors that keep individuals or couples from taking the first step by contacting a well-respected estate planning attorney. Although some of their reasons for avoidance are emotional, others are simply based on misconceptions about the process.
The vast majority of people can overcome their aversion to thinking about their own mortality or incapacity by focusing on how important planning for the future is in terms of protecting their loved ones. At some point, we weigh our own discomfort against our concern for our closest loved ones and the latter easily wins.
Misconceptions, on the other hand, are more difficult to dismiss, but don’t let someone close to you be led astray by one of the following false statements:
- I am not wealthy enough to require an estate plan.
- Estate planning is expensive and time-consuming.
- I do not have children so why would I need a will?
- I am too young to take the time to plan for the future.
- I am healthy, have good genes, and exercise, so I will
not get an incapacitating disease.
- I am careful and lucky so I will never be seriously injured.
- I don’t think I ever want to retire, so why should I plan for it?
Stand up for rationality. Point out that estate planning is cost-effective, lessens stress both in the short-term and in the long-term, and is based on statistical realities. Help others see the light as you have. Discuss the illogical elements of each of the previous assumptions and the benefits of estate planning in organizing your life and protecting those you care about most. Let’s make this year’s Estate Planning Awareness Week productive!