This is the first installment of a four-part series designed to address the estate planning questions we receive most often from our clients.
Is estate planning just for the wealthy?
Absolutely not! Proper estate planning is important for anyone who has any assets, children, other close relatives or friends, or a favorite charity. Proper planning now will cost your estate – and your intended beneficiaries – only a fraction of the cost they will incur in the probate process. More importantly, proper planning now helps avoid many of the potential disputes and emotional trauma that may result from a disputed Will or an expensive, public probate process.
What happens if I do not create an estate plan and die without a Will?
If you do not have an estate plan, your estate will go through probate and will be distributed via your state’s intestacy laws. You will lose control over who receives your assets and – most importantly – over whom would raise your minor children. In fact, court approval would be required to do even the most basic of things, such as paying your spouse an allowance, paying recurring bills, and accounting for your property. Dying intestate is expensive.* Maybe not for you, because you won’t be around, but it is an extremely expensive and painful process for everyone else you care about. A substantial portion of your hard work and savings will go towards paying probate court and attorneys’ fees, rather than to your spouse, children, and other loved ones, while everyone sorts out the mess you left behind. A well-executed estate plan results in more favorable results all around. *For example, in Connecticut, if you die without a Will, your spouse and children would each receive 50 percent of the total probate assets. Therefore, your 19 year-old may receive a huge financial windfall that you never
Should I create a health care power of attorney?
A health care power of attorney allows you to designate someone you trust to make important health-related decisions on your behalf if you become mentally or physically incapacitated. Alternatively, in the absence of this designation, you could be subject to an expensive and potentially humiliating conservatorship or guardianship proceeding where the probate court would appoint someone to take control of your assets and personal affairs.
Why do we need an attorney for this?
You want an attorney to help you with this process for one simple reason: to protect the people you care about. Your death will be a time of grief and confusion for your family and other loved ones. Those emotions may, unfortunately, bring out the worst in people by revealing previously-hidden agendas or conflict. Anestate planning attorney who has experience with these matters can help you draft a plan that accomplishes your objectives now, minimizes strife within your family, and increases the likelihood that your property is protected after death.
For assistance with any legal needs related to your business or estate planning, contact Fournier Legal Services at email@example.com or 860.670.3535 now for a free consultation and planning session.
Joe received his law degree from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill School of Law and his Accounting degree from the University of Rhode Island. He is admitted to practice law in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, and he is a CPA. He is an Adjunct Professor and lecturer at the University level and has been a frequent speaker on business planning and legal matters.