Because Congress found that over 120,000,000 Americans did not have an up-to-date estate plan, they voted in 2008 to declare the third week in October each year as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. In the resolution, the House cited a 2004 Roper poll commissioned by the American Institute for Certified Public Accountants which stated that two-thirds of Americans over age 65 believe they lack the knowledge necessary to adequately plan for retirement and that almost one half of all Americans are not knowledgeable about basic retirement tools, like 401ks.
Almost a decade later, studies have found that over 64% of Americans still don’t have an estate plan.
If you don’t have a proper plan in place, or if your plan is decades old, don’t hesitate to contact a local estate planning attorney to start the process of protecting your loved ones’ futures. Here are a few quick estate planning tips that will help you learn more about this important area of law.
It is not only for the rich and famous.
Many Americans equate estate planning with large complicated assets and estate tax loopholes. This could not be further from reality. And while it’s true that the estate tax won’t impact the vast majority of us, you still need a comprehensive plan in place. Estate planning encompasses so much more than taxation issues or complex wealth.
If you die with no estate plan, the state steps in.
The problem with the lack of an estate plan occurs when the state’s “intestacy” laws kick in and dictate how your assets are split up and passed on to your heirs. Creating an estate plan is the only sure method to make sure that your specific wishes are carried out. With no strategy, your kids might be in limbo or worse yet, in conflict. Proper preparation can also protect your family from lenders and lawsuits. No family wants to deal with debt collectors and mounting bills when they are mourning the loss of a loved one.
Your estate plan makes sure that your charities get the donations you intended to make.
An estate plan enables you to donate to a charity with confidence. Do you wish for part of your real property, personal property or assets to go to a favorite charity? If that’s the case, the only real way to be charitable in passing is with an estate plan. And, in case you do have worries about taxation, charitable estate planning could yield you tax breaks that you otherwise may not qualify for.
Estate plans are a must for unreliable relatives.
Sometimes, adult children aren’t as stable or responsible as you would wish. If you are concerned about your kids having total control over their inheritance, then you may even leave the funds in a trust, which allows somebody else (the trustee) to make decisions regarding how the money is utilized. This can shield your children from blowing through their inheritance as a result of bad decision making, substance abuse issues, or just plain excess spending.
For unconventional families, estate planning is a non-negotiable
Estate preparation is absolutely vital for unconventional families. If you are part of a non-traditional or blended family, you will need an estate plan to ensure that your assets are distributed to those you consider your closest relatives. Or, if you are in a relationship aside from a conventional marriage union, your estate would skip your partner and pass to your parents or some other blood relations unless you have an established estate plan. Making certain that this does not occur is reason enough to hire an experienced estate planning attorney.