The Top 10 Reasons Why Estate Planning Is Vital to Your Life Plan (and why now it the time to start planning):
1. Loss of capacity: If you become incapacitated due to an accident or illness (which, according to some insurance sources, has a 65% chance of happening in a lifetime) and are unable to manage your own affairs, the courts will select a person or agency to manage your affairs through a Guardianship Proceedings. With a plan, you pick that person by granting them Power of Attorney.
2. Minor Children: Who will raise your children if you die? Without a plan, a court will make that decision based upon Statutory Criteria further defined by case law and evidence presented to the Court. With a plan, you are able to nominate the guardian of your choice.
3. Dying without a will: Who will inherit your assets? Without a plan, your assets will pass to your heirs according to your state’s laws of intestacy (dying without a will). Your family members – and perhaps not the ones you would choose – will receive your assets without the benefit of your direction or of trust protection. With a plan, you decide who gets your assets, and when and how they receive them.
4. Blended families: What if your family is the result of multiple marriages? Without a plan, children from different marriages may not be treated as you might wish. With a plan, you determine what goes to your current spouse and to the children from a prior marriage or marriages.
5. Children with special needs: Without a plan, a child with special needs is at risk of being disqualified from receiving Medicaid or SSI benefits, and may have to use his or her inheritance to pay for their own care. With a plan, you can set up a Supplemental Needs Trust that will allow the child to remain eligible for government benefits while using the trust assets to pay for other non-covered expenses.
6. Keeping assets in the family: Would you prefer that your assets stay in your own family? Without a plan, your child’s spouse may wind up with your money if your child passes away prematurely. Or if your child divorces his or her current spouse, half of your assets could go to the spouse. With a plan, you can set up a trust that ensures that your assets will stay in your family and, if you so desire. will pass to your grandchildren.
7. Financial security: Will your family be able to survive financially without you? Without a plan or the income replacement provided by life insurance, your spouse and children may be unable to maintain their current living standard. With a plan, your family can enjoy financial security through life insurance.
8. Retirement accounts: Do you have an IRA or similar retirement account? Without a plan, your designated beneficiary for the retirement account funds may not choose to reflect your current wishes. And although the rules regarding the designation of a beneficiary have been eased considerably, it may result in burdensome tax consequences for your heirs. With a plan, you can choose the optimal beneficiary.
9. Business ownership: Do you own a business? Without a plan, you don’t get to name a successor, thus risking the possibility that your family could lose control of the business. With a plan, however, you choose who will own and control the business after you are gone.
10. Avoiding probate: Without a plan, your estate may be subject to delays and excess fees (depending on the state), and your assets will become a matter of public record. With a plan, you can structure things so that the financial and emotional burden of probate can be avoided entirely.
IRS CIRCULAR 230 DISCLAIMER. Pursuant to regulations governing the practice of attorneys and other professionals before the Internal Revenue Service, unless otherwise expressly stated, any U.S. federal or state tax advice in this communication (including attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal or state law or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or tax-related matter(s) addressed herein.