The third week of October is National Estate Planning Awareness Week (Oct. 17-23, 2022). Estate planning is important for everyone regardless of wealth or family status because if you become incapacity or pass away without an estate plan, you are leaving the distribution of your assets subject to state law – and the results may not be what you want or expect.
Estate Planning Explained
Estate planning includes the growth, protection, and transfer of a person's wealth through the creation and maintenance of an estate plan. The concept of estate planning is important and twofold: (1) to have a strategy that will maintain your financial security during your lifetime, and (2) to ensure that your intended transfer of property and assets occurs upon your death. Both of these issues are analyzed through the lens of the unique situation of the family and the possible expense of different methods used in the estate plan.
For a basic explanation of the various facets of estate planning, you can review a one-page summary of why you need estate planning or why you need an estate planning attorney, which can be found under the Resources tab of our website.
Benefits of Estate Planning
There are several benefits to having an estate plan. At a minimum, an estate plan provides clear written guidance to your loved ones on what to do with your assets when you are deceased. But perhaps the most important reason is to be in control of how your family is provided for in the event of your death or incapacity. Estate planning can address several issues including:
- Who will raise your minor children,
- Who will inherit your assets and how they will be distributed,
- Who will care for loved ones who are unable to care for themselves,
- Who will care for your pets, and
- Who will receive your life insurance and other insurance proceeds.
Finally, good estate planning can ease the time-consuming, administrative strain placed on your family during an already difficult time.
Estate Planning Statistics
According to a 2021 survey conducted by Caring.com, only 33 percent of adults in the United States have any estate planning documents such as a will or trust, despite the fact that approximately two-thirds of the respondents viewed such documents as somewhat or very important. In the 2022 version of the Caring.com survey, 1 in 3 Americans who have no estate planning documents feel that they do not have enough assets to leave behind. However, even more astounding is that 40% of folks without documents just hadn't gotten around it - even with the world suffering through the pandemic.
And, while many have likely heard that it is wise to avoid probate – the legal process by which the assets of a deceased are disposed of under court supervision – many do not understand why probate should be avoided. Three main issues with probate include: (1) the tying up of the decedent's assets for months or even years while the probate is open, (2) the cost, sometimes as much as 5 percent of the estate's value is spent on attorney and court fees alone, and (3) the loss of privacy in the probate process when it comes to the decedent's financial information.
There are many financial and legal tools that may be used in the estate planning process. While Estate Planning Awareness Week is on your mind, contact us today to discuss your situation and learn about your specific options.
 Daniel Cobb, 2021 Wills and Estate Planning Study, Caring.com, https://www.caring.com/caregivers/estate-planning/wills-survey/2021-survey/.
 Daniel Cobb, 2022 Wills and Estate Planning Study, Caring.com, https://www.caring.com/caregivers/estate-planning/wills-survey/.
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