Estate Planning Is an Essential Family Need for All Parents
by Dana R. Wine, Esquire
You are young, healthy, and enjoying life with your children. Why would you need to think about estate planning? The most common reasons people do not create an Estate Plan is that they feel they do not have enough wealth or they do not believe they are old enough. However, even if you are young and do not have large assets, there are many reasons to create an Estate Plan to protect your family.
Estate planning is the process of creating a plan for your assets, children, spouse, and other loved ones in the event of your disability or death. An Estate Plan uses wills, trusts, and other legal documents in coordination with your family finances. Your Estate Plan should not be merely a single transaction of executing a document, but rather a series of conversations and an ongoing process throughout your lifetime as you and your family and its finances grow and change.
So, why plan now? Because life is uncertain, and we all want the best for our family. The thought of planning your estate or preparing a will or trust may bring about anxiety and other uneasy feelings, and spark difficult conversations about our lives and deaths. But having a solid and comprehensive plan to protect you, your spouse, your children, and your assets is often the best way to bring about comfort during these difficult times and is an essential piece of planning for your family’s future. Without an Estate Plan, there are many possible negative consequences for your family and loved ones.
Without an Estate Plan your family may be subject to long delays in the administration of your estate and receipt of estate assets for their benefit, and increased administration costs. Your children may not be cared for financially or personally in the way you would like, and your family may also be subject to failure of your assets to go to whom you intend, failure of your children’s inheritance to be protected from themselves or others, unintentional disinheritance of your children after remarriage, and many other possible unintended outcomes.
Estate planning protects your most important asset of all-your children. Without a proper Estate Plan the courts may appoint a guardian for your children without any input as to your morals, values, and wishes. If no trust has been established for your children, they may be exposed to conservatorship proceedings (whereby someone is appointed to manage your money for them) and it may not be the person whom you would have chosen. Our firm uses creative tools to allow you to provide for continued extended family involvement, instill your values and work ethic in your children, and leave the legacy you want for them.
If you die intestate (without a will) in South Carolina your estate will go half to your spouse and half to your children in most cases. If your children are minors, a conservator may be appointed to manage their finances. Your spouse could be left without control of all of the family assets. They may be unable to sell your home if needed without Court action. There are many other unintended consequences of not having a comprehensive estate plan that you would never want for your family.
So-called “simple wills” or online boilerplate forms are usually not enough. Let’s face it, we are all busy and finances are tight when raising children. Less expensive and quick options seem attractive. Simple boilerplate wills and online services cannot replace the needed advice of an attorney. Your family needs are rarely exactly like another family, so why should your Estate Plan be? Meeting with an attorney is key to creating an Estate Plan to ensure you are making the right decisions and that your wishes are memorialized in the best way possible. Laws regarding estate planning are complicated and may affect you in ways you cannot anticipate. You may believe your family situation is simple, but talking to an attorney often reveals other areas of concern that should be addressed. Comprehensive estate planning provides a total package of planning for death and disability, which helps avoid guardianship and conservatorship proceedings if you become disabled. Signing a will is only one piece of estate planning. Coordinating your assets with your documents is crucial to achieving your estate planning objectives and protecting your family. Failure to properly title and designate beneficiaries on assets and accounts can have far reaching financial consequences for your spouse and/or children. A comprehensive Estate Plan may cost more now, but it can save a huge amount of money in future legal and professional fees that can arise from improper planning.
We work so hard to do the best for our family and make the best decisions we can for them. Why should this end if we are unable to make decisions on our own? It doesn’t have to. Creating a comprehensive Estate Plan allows you to protect your family’s needs. It also helps you have an influence in your children’s upbringings, provide financially for your family’s future, and pass down the legacy you want to be remembered by. There is no better time to plan to protect your family than now.