The passing of a loved one is often overwhelming enough, without the added stress of having to handle the financial turmoil that can follow after a death. According to a survey reported in the New Jersey Herald’s article, “Put your plans in writing,” just 42% of U.S. adults have estate planning documents, and for those with children younger than age 18, only 36% have their estate plans in place.
About 47% of those who responded to a survey from Caring.com, said they hadn't gotten around to it. That’s not too surprising, since people are often reluctant to deal with the idea of their own mortality, or they think they have a lot of time to address it before they die.
The first step to estate planning is to get some professional advice. You should hire an experienced estate attorney to assist with setting up a trust, wills, living wills, health care directives and powers of attorney.
One of the biggest mistakes that people can make is thinking they need to have a large estate or be ultra-wealthy to have an estate plan. No, everyone needs an estate plan. If you’re married with kids, you need a will, because without the appointment of a guardian, a judge will make the decision regarding who will care for your children. Surprisingly, relatives may fight over who should rear your children. It’s critical to have this spelled out in your will to keep peace in your family.
People die without a will all the time. Their assets are distributed via the intestacy laws of their state of residence. For example, if a person with a spouse and no children, grandparents or parents passes away, everything will go to the spouse. In some states, like New Jersey, when that couple has children, and one parent dies, leaving a spouse and children who are also the children of the spouse, the spouse will get the first $50,000 plus one-half of the balance of the estate. The children would receive the other one-half of the balance divided equally among the siblings.
Some people decide to create their wills on the Internet, but an estate planning attorney can make certain that everything is legal and correct. Remember if you do it yourself online, you get what you pay for. You want a will that’s resilient and considers a wide variety of contingencies. Your estate plan should also be reviewed regularly—especially after a life-changing event, such as having a child, marriage, or divorce. New laws can affect your situation differently than others, so an experienced attorney is your best option.
Estate planning will ease the burden on the family you leave behind.
Reference: New Jersey Herald (September 8, 2017) “Put your plans in writing”