When people fall under difficult economic times, they typically cut back on everything. The main things they cut back on include vacations, dining out, giving gifts and other things they may want to buy which are not essential to their survival. An estate plan may fall under this category, as some would say this is something that can wait until later, or until you get older when you are closer to possibly passing away.
However, if you think your estate plan is not essential to your survival you are mistaken. You do not know when you will pass away. Some people will at old age, others will get into unexpected situations. What would happen to your loved ones if you were no longer here next week to help take care of them? Whether you realize this or not, everyone has an estate plan right now. The state has devised a plan for those that do not have one.
Through the laws of intestacy, each state dictates the post death transfer of property for those who die without a Will. For example, in California, when a husband dies “intestate” (i.e., without a Will) his property will be divided in certain proportions between his surviving wife and children.
If you want your entire estate to go to your wife, then that must be written in a will. Many people would want most if not the entire estate to go to the surviving spouse since as they get older they are less capable of working and have a greater need for funds than the younger children who are typically capable of working.
The state does not see it that way. It is important to plan your estate and take control into your own hands and away from the state so that your heirs get your assets as you want them to receive them. There may be a case where the children are very well off and the spouse is not, yet they split the estate equally. You may not want this to happen so it is best ensure it does not.
Aside from just distributions of assets after you pass, a proper estate plan can also help dictate things like what happens when you are unable to make decisions but still living. This is called incapacity planning. Who gets to dictate your medical decisions when you cannot? Who handles your assets when you cannot?
These are important questions and if you do not have a plan in place to handle this, should these situations arise, you and your family could be facing a lot of struggle and expense ahead.
With a simple estate plan drafted by an attorney, you could avoid the pain and suffering that not having your matters in place would cost. Especially if you are trying to be economical due to the economy, when matters are not in place they will cost everyone involved more money in the end.
This is why it makes sense to not wait until later because one never knows what life will throw.