If you haven't taken care of your estate planning yet, you need to get started as quickly as possible. You can't afford to take chances with your financial future, especially where your family is concerned. Many people wrongly believe that their estate is protected as long as they let their loved ones know what they want. Unfortunately, that's not the case.
If you don't have an up-to-date estate plan that includes an active will or trust, you're not as wellprotected as you should be. Here are five reasons why you need an estate plan in place.
1. Protect Your Non-Traditional Family
If you have a non-traditional family, you're not alone. In 2014, less than half the children in America had traditional families (defined as living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage). Unfortunately, non-traditional families don't always receive equal protection under the law, especially when it comes to estate divisions and familial rights. Estate planning helps to protect your rights.
If you're not part of a traditional family household, your partner may have a difficult time gaining access to you during a hospitalization. They may also be precluded from making decisions regarding your medical care. Your estate plan will ensure that your partner does have those rights.
If you're part of a non-traditional family and you have minor children, you need an estate plan in place. This is particularly important if your partner has not legally adopted your children. Without an active estate plan, your partner may lose custody of your children should you pass away.
2. Prevent Interference by Disgruntled Relatives
If you have relatives that you want to protect your assets from, talk to an attorney about an estate plan. If you pass away without a will, relatives can come forward to stake a claim on your estate. Once that happens, your estate enters into probate, which can tie up your assets for years.
Unfortunately, your rightful heirs will not be able to access your assets until your estate is cleared by the probate court. An estate plan not only prevents interference by disgruntled relatives, but it also allows your rightful heirs to avoid the probate process.
3. Control Tax Fees and Liabilities
If you have sizeable assets, an estate plan will help control the taxes that are levied against your estate. When you pass away, the government has a vested interest in recovering as much of your estate as possible, usually through estate taxes and other fees. Without an active estate plan, your heirs may end up owing money to the government. Your attorney can set up trust accounts that will protect your heirs from government fees and taxes.
4. Protect Your Small Business
If you own a small business, an estate plan ensures that operations will continue after your passing. Your estate plan allows you to designate individuals who will be in charge of your business interests upon your death. This protection is particularly important when co-partners are involved. With an active estate plan, your partners can't cut your family out of the profits from the business.
5. Provide for Your Pets
If you own pets, you need an estate plan. Without a proper estate plan, your pets may be left without the protection they'll need for their care. When you include your pets in your estate plan, you have the ability to designate a guardian for them. You also have the ability to set funds aside for their care and comfort.
Don't take chances with your estate. If you don't have an estate plan in place, contact us at Gabert, Williams, Konz & Lawrynk LLP. We'll help you develop an estate plan that will protect your assets and your heirs.