If you ask the average American whether they have an estate plan, a number of them would likely have no idea what you were talking about. And even if a person knows what estate planning is that doesn’t mean they have taken the time to create one. Estate planning often feels about as enjoyable as planning a trip to the dentist, but there are some pretty big risks you take when you don’t have a plan. Even a simple plan can correct these mistakes, but not having one in place will almost guarantee a bad result.
Your estate will very likely lose money.
People typically create estate plans to minimize or avoid probate because probate is often very expensive and time-consuming. When you don’t have a plan, you essentially choose to give part of any inheritance you might leave your family to the court, lawyers, accountants, and anyone else your estate will have to pay during the probate process.
Your family will be left without guidance.
If you are left in the position of being medically incapacitated, your family will have to make medical choices for you. This is often very difficult, and if different family members have conflicting ideas about the kinds of care you would’ve wanted, it can lead to some serious family conflict. The tragic case of the Florida woman Terry Schiavo exemplifies the problem.
Your children will not be cared for by someone you approve of.
If you have young children your estate plan will allow you to choose a guardian to care for them after you die. Without a plan you leave this decision to the court, and the court could select someone of whom you would never have approved.
Can these problems be avoided? Yes; by creating a comprehensive estate planning with the assistance of an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney.