June 30, 2015

Estate Planning: Why You Need a Plan



Estate Planning Series

Part One: Why You Need a Plan

More than half of American adults do not have a Will or other estate plan in place, according to research done by the legal resource center LexisNexis. And while there might be a few reasons why having an estate plan is not a priority, I hope to show you there are several more reasons (important reasons) why having a plan in place is one of the biggest investments you will ever make.

So what exactly is estate planning? Simply put, estate planning is determining who gets your “stuff” when you pass away. However, who does the “determining” is what estate planning is really all about. Every individual has a different set of circumstances and unique wishes when it comes to the distribution of property after he passes away. Estate planning is the best way to ensure your personal objectives are actually met.


If you die without a Will or other estate plan in place, you have died “intestate.” This means that the State gets to determine how your assets are distributed, since you have left no instructions yourself. For example, if a husband dies intestate and is survived by a wife and children, his wife receives half of his estate and the children receive half of his estate. If an individual passes intestate survived by children and no spouse, each child inherits an equal share of the estate.

Four main documents are drafted for the average individual with “simple” estate planning needs:

(1) Last Will and Testament (2) General (or Springing) Durable Power of Attorney (3) Health Care Power of Attorney (4) Living Will

Drafting the complete set of these documents is the best way to ensure your goals and wishes are met with regard to the management of your assets and your healthcare.

Other options are available beyond drafting a simple Will. Depending on the size of your estate and your estate planning objectives, it might be more advantageous to draft a Pour-Over Will and Revocable Living Trust Agreement (RLTA). The primary objective of an individual drafting a RLTA is often probate avoidance. The job of the Probate Court is to supervise distribution of an estate’s probate assets and as one might expect, court supervision can often mean time and expense.

In future blogs I will discuss some of the benefits and pitfalls of different estate planning documents, the complexities and obstacles that can often arise in the probate process, and hopefully address more of the common questions that arise in estate planning consults.

Estate planning is something every adult should consider. It really is all about putting control into your hands. Having a conversation with an attorney is essential to determine what estate planning documents are best suited to your needs. An initial estate planning consult with our office is free, so we hope to see you soon.