Peacock Tales • Spring 2012

 

You Don't Need an Estate Plan Unless You're Rich...True or False?

By Kenneth L. Baker

There are many myths that promote procrastination in the development of an estate plan:

It’s very expensive.  False, unless there are complicated tax, property or Medicaid issues.

The intestate laws and the courts will take care of my family and children if I die.  True, but not to your satisfaction.

The government is going to take everything anyway.  False

It will be someone else’s problem.  True.  But, is that the way you would want to be remembered?

I’m never going to die.  No answer required.

The truth is that the law often does not carry out what an individual would have wished.  The cost of not planning can far exceed the cost monetarily, emotionally and time wise of doing a will, financial power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney.  We at Peacock Keller recommend that you address these issues as soon as possible.  This can often be done with an initial visit or phone conference with a follow-up visit to sign the documents.

If you do not have a will, the Register of Wills will appoint a personal representative based on the requirements of the Probate Code.  Intestate laws will determine who inherits your estate.  If a child is a spendthrift, your hard earned assets could go to pay his creditors.  If you have a disabled child, your assets go to pay the cost of care for that disabled child disqualifying him from available benefits.

Should you need help managing your affairs or should you become incapacitated, a financial power of attorney could avoid expensive guardianship proceedings.  You get to pick the person you trust to act as your agent rather than have the court choose that person.  You avoid large sums of money being expended in court proceedings.  You spare your family the stress of going to court.

It is also important to voice your wishes in a health care power of attorney.  Otherwise, the person picked by the court may prolong your life when you would not want extraordinary care, or they may terminate care when you would have wished care to be provided.  As one ages, the likelihood of health issues increases.  Accidents happen and health crises occur even when you are young.  All good reasons to have a health care power of attorney in place.

We all think that we know the sequence of deaths.  Children are supposed to outlive their parents.  Women always outlive men.  However, our ability to predict what will occur is less than perfect.  In fact, the sequence of events is often not what one would have expected or intended.  Don’t put off your estate planning.  Show that you care enough about your loved ones to do planning before it is too late.


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