It is very common for people to believe that estate planning is only for the wealthy. Here’s why that’s not true, and why it matters to you.
When anyone—not just a wealthy person—creates an estate plan, they are empowering themselves by taking control over crucial decisions in their life. These include decisions about their estate in the event of their passing, as well as decisions about their health and other affairs during their lifetime.
Put simply, a person’s “estate” consists of all their property at the time of their passing. If a person fails to prepare estate planning, they will not be able to decide what happens to their property after they pass. A common line of thinking is, “But I don’t have a significant amount of property, so I don’t really need estate planning, right?”
Property can either be “real” or “personal”. “Real property” refers to real estate. But “personal property” refers to essentially everything else you own. Many people know this includes things like money in your bank account. But did you know this also includes things like your social media accounts, your most beloved belongings, and even your pets? If you do not have estate planning, you will not be able to decide what happens to those things after you pass.
If you pass without proper estate planning, your loved ones have to endure what’s called the “probate” process in court. This is a lengthy, expensive, and public process. During probate, the court would have no way of knowing your personal wishes and desires. Despite this, it will decide who gets your assets based on predetermined laws. This could lead to unexpected and unwanted distributions.
As an example, let’s say there’s someone in your family that you do not get along with. Through probate, depending on that person’s relation to you, it’s possible they will end up inheriting your estate. Estate planning would be crucial in that case because regardless of how much your property is worth, you would not want that outcome.
But estate planning is not just about property. What happens if you become incapacitated? What happens if you pass away and have minor children? While none of us enjoy thinking of these topics, these issues can all be resolved and avoided through estate planning. If they are not resolved, you or your loved ones can be put in complicated, painful, and life-altering situations.
With a last will and testament only, your loved ones would still end up in probate. That is why a trust can be created in addition to your will in order to avoid probate. A comprehensive estate plan, that an estate planning lawyer like our friends at the Law Offices of Nakasaka includes a multitude of documents, each of which protect various wishes in different ways. These documents include a will, trust(s), financial power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and certificate of trust(s), to name a few.