This weekend, I took my young son and daughter to a movie in which a beloved family cat died. My son especially didn’t enjoy the movie because of this. On the way home, he realized, “Hey! If the cat can die, then everyone will die too!”
Unfortunately (or not), the kid’s right, but well over half of us don’t even have an estate plan. We have discussed various reasons for this, including the perceived high expense, feeling too young or too poor, or just not knowing what an estate plan is.
But are people making too big a deal over this? Aren’t the ones pushing mainly people who have a financial interest in the decision? Why, if you google “do I need a will”, do you get nearly two billion hits?
Well, if you think you don’t need any estate planning, you may pretty much agree with the following 11 points:
1. Probate – To settle your estate, you want your spouse, parents or children to go through a long, expensive process with your county, financial institutions, and other relatives, that is potentially run by someone you never knew.
2. Intestacy – Your will is written in the State Code, and the State will decide who gets your property. You don’t want any non-relatives (including your survivor in a gay or lesbian relationship in most U.S. states) to make any decisions or get anything you don’t already jointly own. You also aren’t fazed that your loved ones may argue for years over your various personal items.
3. Inheritance – You are compelled by the idea that your spouse could remarry, die, and leave all your assets to that unknown person rather than to anyone in your family.
4. Guardianship – You don’t want to decide; you would rather have the state decide who ends up caring for your minor children or your elderly parents if you die.
5. Conservatorship – You don’t want to decide this either; you would rather have the state decide who will run your children’s share of your estate until they turn 18, when they receive the full amount in cash.
6. Special Needs — If you have a child (or another family member) with special needs, you don’t mind that if that person gets a share of your estate, it would likely make him/her ineligible for any social security disability payments to which he/she would otherwise be entitled.
7. Incapacity — If you become incapacitated, instead of your spouse, close relative or friend, you want your family to go to court and potentially have some outsider take care of your financial and health decisions.
8. Life Prolonging Procedures — You find the notion of doctors keeping you alive for years without knowing your beliefs and draining your family assets intriguing.
9. Business Succession — You’re not concerned that the family business could dissolve upon your death or go to an outsider for possibly pennies on the dollar.
10. Taxes — You think the government deserves its taxes and fees, and that any tax-reduction strategies are hocus-pocus that goes against our social responsibility with the state.
11. Insurance — You find the idea of paying car, home/renters, health, and life insurance as wise and essential financial strategies, but find an annual review of your plans for your death or incapacity repulsive and depressing.
If you agree with all of these statements, then perhaps you do not need a plan. However, if you are struggling with even one, then it may be time for you to act accordingly.