Top 7 reasons you need an estate plan—even if you have only $500 in the bank

By Attorney Bonnie Bowles August 24, 2013

Contrary to popular belief, estate planning is not just about money or taxes. Far from it. Today, it’s more about protecting your assets for yourself and your loved ones, achieving your financial goals, and safeguarding your health care. Money and taxes aside, here are 7 good reasons you need an estate plan:

1. Your health care. Defining how your medical needs will be addressed in case you cannot make health care decisions for yourself is a primary objective of having an estate plan. You also need to consider how you will meet the costs of long-term care. You need to name someone to make decisions for you and tell them how you want them made. This must be legally documented or the person you want caring for you cannot help without going to court first, as is the case with Amanda Bynes’ parents.

2. Probate. Probate is an unnecessary, public, and often expensive court process that takes control out of your family’s hands and puts that control in the hands of a judge who doesn’t know you or what’s important to you. A main focus of estate planning is keeping your family out of court, no matter what.

3. Family feuds. Family fights over how assets are divided and distributed are common when there is no estate plan and/or trusted advisor to guide family members. Sadly enough, these fights happen even when amounts of money are small OR even when there is no money at stake. Some of the biggest fights we’ve seen happen in storage units over sentimental items with no monetary value at all. If you don’t want your family to fight, you should plan your estate ahead of time.

4. Beneficiary forms. You likely have several assets that cannot be passed along in a will alone. These include IRAs, life insurance, retirement plans, and annuities, all of which are governed by beneficiary forms that specify who is to receive the assets upon the death of an account holder. Completing these forms properly is estate planning. Completing these forms improperly creates the potential for a hugely disparate distribution and disgruntled beneficiaries.

5. Kids and parents. If you are currently responsible for the care of minor children, elderly parents, or a person who has special needs, you need a plan for the continuation of that care after you are gone.

6. Managing assets. Is your spouse or other family member capable of managing all your assets? If not, you will need to name someone who is capable of doing this now so your assets will be managed wisely for the benefit of your family in the future.

7. Business succession. If you own a business, you will need a succession plan to govern what happens to your ownership shares if something should happen to you. This is especially important if you are in business with a business partner, or you could end up in business with their spouse upon their passing, forcing a buyout when you can’t afford it, or worse, a liquidation of the business.

Note from the author: As a Personal Family Lawyer®, I can further advise you on all your options and make things as easy as possible for your family during a Family Wealth Planning Session. If you would like to have a talk about estate planning for your family, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Family Wealth Planning Session, and this month I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today at 720-266-8190 or email kim@willsandwellness.com and mention this article.

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